Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) chief executive David Frost said the industry and the UK government now need to focus on pursuing an ambitious set of new free trade deals with export markets following the UK’s narrow vote to leave the EU.
The SWA said that of the £3.8 billion worth of Scotch exported last year, £1.2 billion — almost a third — was shipped to the EU, so planning for the future outside the EU is of great importance to the industry.
Frost met the UK’s Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox on Thursday to discuss Scotch exports.
Scotch is the UK’s biggest net goods export and the SWA said that without whisky, the UK’s trade deficit would be 11% larger.
The SWA said the industry generates around £5 billion annually for the UK economy and invests £1.7 billion in the Scotch Whisky supply chain, almost all of it based in the UK, and supports 40,000 jobs.
In terms of exports, Scotch Whisky represents 20% of all UK food and drink shipments overseas.
“The Secretary of State and I discussed the need to focus on pursuing an ambitious set of new free trade deals with export markets, whilst also ensuring we continue to enjoy the trade benefits already secured for Scotch Whisky through existing EU arrangements,” said Frost.
“This is particularly important as the UK prepares to leave the EU and we look to grow Scotch Whisky exports.
“I took the chance to explain that the industry is taking a very close interest in the arrangements for trade after Brexit.
“We have a wealth of knowledge and experience of international trade policy and legal issues built up over many years.”