Martin Whitfield has joined his six fellow Scottish Labour MPs to write to International Trade Secretary Liz Truss to express “deep concern” over the proposed 25 per cent tariffs on Scotch whisky imposed by Donald Trump’s US government.

The Scotch whisky industry provides £5.5bn in gross value added (GVA) to the UK economy. The MPs call on the Tory government to “leave no stone unturned over the next ten days to stop these 25% tariffs from coming into effect on 18 October”.

Shadow Scotland Secretary and Scottish Labour deputy leader Lesley Laird MP said:

“These 25 per cent tariffs have the potential to seriously damage the scotch whisky industry and the wider Scottish economy as a whole. Scotch whisky accounts for over 70% of Scotland’s food and drink exports while the industry employs over 10,000 workers in Scotland, many of whom are employed in rural communities.

“The UK Government must do everything in its power to de-escalate the situation before the tariffs come into force, and must unequivocally commit not to retaliate with tariffs on bourbon and American whisky if we leave the EU at the end of October.”

Martin Whitfield MP said:

“This is a worrying time for everyone in East Lothian involved in the Scotch whisly industry and its supply chain. 25 per cent is a huge hike in costs for one of the industry’s key export markets and would certainly have an impact on the sector.

“If the relationship between the UK and the US remains as special as Boris Johnson claims, then he should pick up the phone and tell Donald Trump to drop these tariffs.”

The full letter is as follows:

Rt. Honorable Liz Truss MP
Secretary of State for International Trade
Department for International Trade
3 Whitehall Place
London SW1A 2HP

8 October 2019

Dear Liz,

We write to you today to express our deep concern following the announcement by the United States that they will impose 25% tariffs on a variety of products made in Scotland such as single malt scotch whisky and scotch whisky liqueurs.

As you will know, the United States is hugely important market for the scotch whisky industry and scotch whisky itself accounts for 70% of Scotland’s food and drink exports and 21% of all UK food and drink exports. The industry is a vital part of the Scottish and wider UK economy with over 10,000 people directly employed in Scotland while supporting a further 40,000 jobs across the UK.

It is estimated that of the 10,000 people directly employed in Scotland by the industry, over 7000 of those are in rural communities providing vital employment and investment in areas that may otherwise lag behind cities and towns.

The Scotch Whisky Association estimates that if these 25% tariffs are to come into effect on 18 October, there could be a 20% reduction in exports to the US with longer term damage occurring if that tariff was sustained for any period of time.

This news comes at a time of great uncertainty for business and industry in the UK. Of course, one of the supposed benefits, lauded by the Leave campaign in 2016, of leaving the European Union is that we will be able to strike free trade deals around the world and the US is the country often mooted as being first in the queue to complete a trade deal.

It will come as no surprise to you that we, as Scottish Labour MPs, are skeptical of the likelihood of the UK succeeding to negotiate a trade agreement with the US that benefits the UK. The slogan adopted by Donald Trump is America First and if the approach taken by the US in this instance is one that embodies the approach they will take in future trade talks, we should all be greatly concerned.

We therefore ask that you leave no stone unturned over the next ten days to stop these 25% tariffs from coming into effect on 18 October, and commit to the UK Government not applying tariffs to bourbon and American whiskey imports if the UK leaves the EU. Urgent action must be taken immediately to de-escalate the trade disputes that have resulted in these tariffs and we urge the UK Government to lead those de-escalation talks.

Yours sincerely,

Lesley Laird MP, Paul Sweeney MP, Ged Killen MP, Ian Murray MP, Martin Whitfield MP,              Danielle Rowley MP, Hugh Gaffney MP