THE UK Government has accused the SNP of making misleading statements over Brexit as the party claim the EU departure has cost the whisky industry £5m a week.
The party said House of Commons library research shows that the UK’s departure from the EU has cost the industry dearly, comparing figures for 2019 with 2021.
According to data, the value of whisky exports to the EU between January and May 2019 was £547m, falling to £396m in the same period in 2020, and rising again to £441m this year.
Industry body the Scotch Whisky Association said the pandemic as well as Brexit had caused challenges for distributers and distillers but added the “drop in exports in the first quarter [of 2021] is partly explained by increased exports in December 2020.”
However the SNP’s Brendan O’Hara said the overall fall in exports was “devastating”.
The MP for Argyll and Bute said: “Scotch whisky plays a crucial role in the success of Scotland’s food and drinks sector and our economy given it accounts for 75% of the sector – so for the industry to be losing £5 million per week is devastating.
“The triple whammy of a Brexit that Scotland didn’t vote for, the pandemic and the US tariffs – which have thankfully now been lifted but not before they cost the industry at least half a billion pounds – have dealt a hammer blow to the Scottish whisky sector.
“All in all the losses to Scotch Whisky exports have been eye-watering, as a result of a Tory Brexit and the UK government’s lack of action over the US tariffs – it is beyond time the UK government made amends for this.”
A UK Government spokeswoman said the SNP’s £5m claim was “misleading.”
She said: “The impact of the covid pandemic and restrictions across Europe has affected trade and depressed demand, so it is too early to draw firm conclusions on the impacts of our new trading relationship with the EU. The latest export statistics for May also show that the value of goods exports to the EU was higher than the monthly average for 2020.
“We continue to help businesses get the support they need to trade effectively with Europe, including by running export helplines and webinars with experts, providing financial support to SMEs and delaying the introduction of full import controls
“Industries can also seize new opportunities as we strike new trade deals and reduce trade barriers around the world, as we did when we secured the suspension of the US’s retaliatory tariffs for the Scottish whisky industry earlier this year.”
A spokeswoman for the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) said: “The way Scotch Whisky is exported to the European Union has changed since Brexit, and producers have had to adapt to changes to customs systems, labelling and paperwork, as well as the withdrawal of some transport services.
“The level of exports fluctuates month by month, and this has been impacted over the past eighteen months by both the Covid-19 pandemic as well as by the UK’s departure from the EU.
“While it was undoubtedly a tough start to the year for companies, the drop in exports in the first quarter is partly explained by increased exports in December 2020.
“Now that infection-control measures in many of our global markets are easing, the pace of the industry’s export recovery is encouraging.”