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 Conor Burns Conor Burns The Minister of State, Department for International Trade 5:19 pm, 7th October 2019

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for those questions. He represents a powerful voice on behalf of the industry and the people of Scotland, along with my hon. Friends around him. It is not just whisky—but I will return to whisky in a second—it is pork, cheese and cashmere. There are a number of areas that will be harmed by the tariffs. Earlier this afternoon, I spoke to Karen Betts, chief executive of the Scottish Whisky Association, who is in South Africa. It is a measure of her concern that she took time out of her schedule to talk to me. The Government are enormously sympathetic, and as I said in my answer, we would urge the United States—tariffs are not in place, and there are 10 days before they are introduced, as my right hon. Friend said—to think again. These tariffs are in no one’s interest. The President of the United States prides himself on being the champion of the little guy, the little business. Well, it is the little business and the little guy who will be harmed most directly if the tariffs come into play.

I can entirely understand my right hon. Friend urging the Government to adjust section 232 countermeasures by removing the tariff on bourbon. We believe in the international rules-based order. It would be the easiest thing in the world simply to say to him, “Yes, we are going to do that.” However, while we remain a member of the European Union, we have to comply with the rules of the European Union. What I would say to him is that when we leave the European Union, nothing is off the table.