The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has set out its priorities for the Scotch industry as a “Brexit transition” agreement is discussed by EU leaders.
The Scotch Whisky industry is strategically important to the Scottish and UK economies, making up more than 20% of all UK food and drink exports.
Last year, 39 bottles of Scotch Whisky were shipped overseas every second, with total exports valued at £4.36 billion.
SWA chief executive Karen Betts said: “We are looking forward to agreement today on a Brexit transition period, which we understand will provide welcome reassurance about the rules and export procedures we will need to comply with after March 2019.
“The transition period should last as long as is necessary to ensure a smooth Brexit for businesses and citizens in the UK and Europe.
“Businesses should not have to make systems changes twice, and every effort should be made to avoid disruption to trade at the end of the transition period.
“December 2020 is a very tight timeline and this should be reviewed if necessary.
“It is vital that the Withdrawal Agreement is swiftly ratified by the European and UK parliaments.
“Until this point, the transition period does not have legal effect, which is a concern for businesses.”
On the future relationship, Karen Betts added: “Trade between the UK and EU should be as straightforward as possible after the transition period concludes.
“30% of Scotch Whisky exports go to the EU, and while these are not susceptible to increased tariffs after Brexit, maintaining zero tariffs on imported materials like glass, machinery and packaging will be important to us.
“Regulatory divergence must be kept to a minimum given the need for all exports to the EU to comply with EU rules.
“Beyond the EU, we would like to see the UK develop ambitious plans for trade deals with markets that are important to our future growth, such as India and China; and secure the continuation of the trade agreements the EU currently has with 3rd countries, such as South Korea.
“For us, there are both advantages and disadvantages to customs union, EEA and EFTA models.
“Ultimately, what we believe will be important is a constructive and open minded approach on the part of negotiators on both sides, such that UK businesses can continue to trade easily and thrive into the future.”