DRINKS industry groups have called on the UK Government to keep business in mind during Brexit negotiations following delivery of the Prime Minister’s Article 50 letter to the European council.
With the delivery of Theresa May’s Article 50 letter, formal proceedings that will see the UK leave the European Union can now commence, putting the trade relationship between Britain and the EU on the negotiating table.
Julie Hesketh-Laird, acting chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, said that during discussions of “such a major change”, the success of the Scotch whisky industry “should not be taken for granted”.
“As a major manufacturer and exporter, the continued growth of Scotch will be a litmus test of the success of the UK’s departure from the EU,” said Hesketh-Laird.
“Some aspects of doing business won’t change for Scotch post-Brexit. Under World Trade Organisation rules, Scotch will continue to benefit from a zero tariff on exports to the EU.
“In many other markets Scotch will also continue to see existing zero tariffs, for example in the US, Canada, and Mexico, as these are offered to all countries already.
“There are, however, many areas where Brexit could have a big impact on Scotch whisky trade and we’re working with government to address those potential challenges.”
The SWA acting chief exec added a call for the UK Government to pursue “as open a trade policy as possible”.
Andy Willox, Scottish policy convenor for the federation of small businesses said the Prime Minister’s decision to trigger Article 50, “sets in train events that will have a profound impact on Scottish firms”.
“For many in the business community, like the micro-brewer who trades overseas or hotelier who employs non-UK EU workers, there are concerns that need addressed,” said Willox. “In particular, the right to remain for EU citizens must be guaranteed at the earliest opportunity.”
Speaking ahead of the Article 50 trigger, British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) chief executive Brigid Simmonds said the BBPA would “urge the government to look at the value of the UK’s food and drink sector to the British economy and ensure that, as we leave the EU, our sector is protected”.
“British brewing is respected and admired the world over, and as new trading relationships are developed, it is important to ensure that we can export on a competitive footing and trade as freely as possible. Currently, 63 per cent of Britain’s beer exports go to the European Union, with the remaining 37 per cent heading outside the EU,” said Simmonds.
“Boosting current electronic trading arrangements, which at the moment facilitate the smooth trading of beer across borders, should be an important part of any new trade agreements.
“It has been reassuring to hear that Britain will look to ensure that those already working in the UK have the right to remain here. Over 20 per cent of workers in our pubs are not UK nationals, and it’s important to note that in metropolitan areas, particularly London and the south east, this figure will be much higher.
“It is vital that these workers’ rights are protected, which will provide much welcome stability both to them personally, and to our sector.”