Scotland business

Brexit 'risks Scotch whisky exports'

Whisky bottling line Image copyright Scotch Whisky Association

Leaving the European Union could put more than £1bn worth of Scotch whisky exports at risk, industry chiefs have claimed.

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) said the European single market was "central to the success of Scotch".

It warned against the UK voting to leave the EU in the June referendum.

But Brexit campaigners Vote Leave said leading exports and industries had prospered "because of hard work at home, not because of EU membership".

The SWA warning came as Westminster Environment Secretary Liz Truss met industry figures at a distillery in East Lothian to discuss the importance of the EU market to the sector.

Speaking ahead of her visit to Diageo's Glenkinchie Distillery near Pencaitland, she said: "We should all raise a toast to our biggest export success.

"Europe has a taste for Scotch and the industry will do better if we remain in the EU because whisky producers have hassle-free, easy access to the single market of 500 million people.

"The Scotch whisky industry has strong global trade links beyond Europe in America and Asia, and their business leaders are clear that the EU single market provides the best conditions to reach even greater heights.

"Leaving the EU would be a leap in the dark for our great British food and drink industry and could lead to years of negotiations on new trade deals - with no guarantees at the end."

Image caption UK Environment Secretary Liz Truss visited Diageo's Glenkinchie Distillery in East Lothian

Drinks giant Diageo's chief executive Ivan Menezes said his firm strongly believed that the UK should remain in the EU.

He said: "The single market gives us a level playing field and open access across the EU, while the EU's clout in international trade helps to open up new markets with agreements favourable to the UK, reducing tariffs and resolving trade disputes."

SWA chief executive David Frost said: "Scotch supports around 40,000 jobs across the UK, adds around £5bn in value to the economy and is vital to the UK balance of trade.

"EU membership has many advantages for Scotch.

"The single market, including its regulation of food and drink, and its single trade policy are central to the success of Scotch. It lets us trade across the EU simply and easily and helps give us fairer access to other overseas markets."

Vote Leave spokesman Robert Oxley said: "Pro-EU campaigners are unable to comprehend that our leading exports and industries have prospered because of hard work at home, not because of EU membership.

"In fact, we cannot even harness the biggest growth export markets for Scotch whisky because we've handed control over our trade deals to the EU which is terrible at negotiating them."

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