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Us Tariffs: Scotch Whisky

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:19 pm on 7th October 2019.

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Photo of David Mundell David Mundell Conservative, Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale 5:19 pm, 7th October 2019

I welcome the Minister to the Dispatch Box and thank him for his answer. I welcome the fact that this urgent question was chosen to be discussed, because the matter is urgent. There are 10 days left until the US proposes to introduce tariffs of 25% on Scotch malt whisky, which represents 60% of the UK-origin goods included on the list and 10% of the non-aviation goods from across Europe that are on the list. Curiously, products such as brandy and cognac from France are not included on the list.

As the Minister said, the US market is vital for the Scotch whisky industry, with a turnover of more than £1 billion. The distilleries involved in exporting malt to the United States are often small. They are often craft distilleries, whose establishment in recent years we particularly welcomed in Scotland. If tariffs are imposed, those industries will have to scale back their efforts in the United States. The industry estimates that there could be a loss of £228 million in revenue, and that 3,000 jobs, mainly in rural Scotland, could be affected by the proposals.

I want the Government to show even more urgency than they have done to date. There are two things that can be done immediately. First, the industry has made it clear that if the Government announces that when the UK leaves the EU on 31 October this year that it will not impose tariffs on bourbon or American whiskies that would greatly help the dialogue with the United States.

Secondly, I know that the Minister has the close ear of the Prime Minister, and it is important that he urge him to intervene directly with President Trump. It was my duty to welcome President Trump to Scotland last year. During that event, he told me that he loved Scotland. If the Prime Minister could convey directly to President Trump the damage that the proposals would do to Scotland, particularly rural Scotland, that could have an impact. I would be pleased if the Minister confirmed that he would indeed urge the Prime Minister to make those representations.