Scotland fears any relaxation to the definition would open up the market to inferior products that do not meet the same standards.
Scotch whisky is worth around £4bn ($5.2bn) to Scotland in exports, while the industry employs around 10,000 directly and another 10,000 indirectly in the supply chain. Scotch whisky exports increased by £79m ($100m) in the first quarter of 2017, putting it as one of the top two UK export products by value.
‘Key part of Scottish identity’
Scotch whisky is protected as a geographical indication (GI) in EU law, under EC Regulation 110/2008.
It is a ‘key part of Scottish culture and identity’, explained Keith Brown, Scotland’s Economy Secretary.
He has written to the UK Government calling for protection of the Scotch Whisky industry after the UK leaves the EU, in light of the International Trade Secretary’s visit to the US last week.
“The US made clear in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership discussions that they would support a relaxation of the definition of whisky, which would open the market up to a number of products which do not currently meet that standard,” said Brown.
“It is vital we continue to have robust legal protection of Scotch whisky, which is why I have sought clarification from the UK Government as to whether Scotch whisky featured in discussions during last week’s trade visit by the Secretary of State for International Trade. I am also demanding the current EU regulations are guaranteed post-Brexit.
“After reports this week that the UK Government is contemplating trade deals that threaten the value and reputation of Scottish produce, once again we can see the confusion which is at the heart of the UK Government’s Brexit position.
“We need to be sure that any future deals work for Scotland and are not threatening the livelihoods of our farmers and producers. This is why all four UK Governments should have oversight of the negotiations to ensure, as far as possible, the right outcomes for everyone are secured.”
UK GI register
Robust legal protection of Scotch whisky in the UK, EU and global markets is one of the key objectives set out by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) in its report on Brexit (June 2017).
It has recommended mutual recognition of UK and EU GIs, as well as the early creation of a UK GI register.
“Government should preserve the protection of Scotch Whisky secured through existing EU trade deals, as well as promote certainty around the definition and presentation of spirit drinks through transposition of the EU Spirit Drinks Regulation into UK law,” it says.