A spirits union is calling for Nissan-style guarantees for the Scottish whisky industry during Brexit negotiations

Courtney Goldsmith
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Whisky tasting At The Glenkinchie Distillery
Whisky is a £5bn industry - and £4bn of that comes from exports (Source: Getty)

Workers in the £5bn Scottish whisky industry should be given Nissan-style protections in Brexit negotiations, union works have said.

GMB, the union for whisky and spirits workers, has written to Scottish Secretary David Mundell to call for measures to safeguard an estimated 160,000 jobs related to the industry.

More than 40,000 UK jobs are directly supported by the industry while a further 120,000 jobs are connected with whisky production and exports.

Scotch whisky is one of the UK's top exports, generating a hefty £4bn. GMB said whisky is covered by World Trade Organisation agreements, meaning exports inside the EU won't be subject to tariffs. However, 10 per cent of exports go to markets like Columbia, Mexico and South Korea where trade agreements were brokered through the EU.

"Following Brexit these lucrative exports could become subject to punishing tariffs," GMB said.

Louise Gilmour, GMB Scotland organiser, criticised the government for quickly pledging support for Nissan, a company which is vital for the economy but "frankly dwarfed by the size of the whisky industry".

​"We need parity for workers in our whisky industry and the same guarantees that were given to Nissan," Gilmour said. "Quite simply, we cannot do without this industry."

The Scotch Whisky Association has previously warned that Brexit could hurt the export-dependent industry.

Chief executive David Frost has encouraged the government to provide early clarity on the shape of the UK's future trading relationship with the EU and other countries. He's also asked Parliament to cut spirit duties to create a competitive domestic environment in support of the home-grown industry.

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