Spirits industry pleads for positive Brexit outcome after record Scotch and gin exports

Spirits industry leaders have urged the government to secure a smooth Brexit transition and a positive long-term deal for distillers after record-breaking export figures for Scotch whisky and gin in 2017.

Scotch exports rose 1.6% in volume and 8.9% in value to just under £4.36 billion last year, according to official HMRC data.

The previous best year for Scotch exports was 2012 when sales amounted to £4.27 billion.

The top three markets by volume are France, the US and India, while the top three measured by value are the US, France and Singapore, where sales rose by 29%.

Value sales to Latvia doubled to send the Baltic state into the top 10 destination markets for Scotch whisky.

Total exports of single malt Scotch rose 14.2% to £1.17 billion.

The Scotch Whisky Association said the overall sales figurers meant Scotch accounted for over a fifth of all UK food and drink exports.

Chief executive Karen Betts said: “Scotch whisky is not just a core part of Scotland’s national identity and heritage, it is also a fundamental part of our export economy.

“It’s very important to the industry that our global markets remain robust and resilient as the UK navigates Brexit and establishes new trading relationships around the world.

“We have undoubtedly benefited from recent falls in the value of the pound, as have other exporters.

“But this short-term boost will not distract the industry from working hard to secure the conditions for long-term growth.

“With over 30% of our trade with EU, it is vital that the UK government secures transition that allows frictionless trade to continue with European markets and with those countries with which the EU has free-trade agreements.

“Longer-term, we are urging the UK government to secure as smooth trade conditions as possible with Europe, alongside pursuing ambitious free-trade deals with key markets around the world, tackling barriers to trade, and bolstering the legal protection of Scotch whisky.”

Scotland’s rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing said: “We will continue to do all we can to support and protect our food and drink sector, which faces growing uncertainty in the labour and export markets as a result of Brexit.

“While these figures are something to celebrate, it is a stark reminder of what is at stake if we are taken out of this important market.”

The Wine & Spirit Trade Association heralded export figures for British gin, which broke the £500 million barrier in 2017 and have doubled in the past 10 years.

Chief executive Miles Beale said: “On leaving the EU, we want more government support to increase exports to developed markets such as Australia, Japan, China and the US.

“The removal of tariffs would allow Britain to maintain its position as the world's largest spirits exporter and further boost the UK economy and provide more jobs.”