Calls for UK to avoid two-tier Irish Whiskey industry post-Brexit

Distilleries in the north stand to lose out in future EU trade deals
Distilleries in the north stand to lose out in future EU trade deals Distilleries in the north stand to lose out in future EU trade deals

A SENIOR figure in the Irish drinks industry has called on the UK Government to avoid a two-tier Irish Whiskey industry after Brexit.

William Lavelle, who heads Drinks Ireland and the Irish Whiskey Association, has said he will press the case for the north’s whiskey distilleries in Whitehall next week, claiming they stand to lose out from major future EU trade deals.

The whiskey representative made the comments after the European Parliament voted on Wednesday to approve a new free trade agreement, between the EU and Vietnam.

The agreement will remove the 45 per cent tariff that is currently placed on Irish whiskey imports to Vietnam, bolstering new sales for Irish whiskey distilleries in Asia.

Irish Whiskey’s legal definition includes products distilled on both sides of the border.

Northern Irish distilleries such as Bushmills, and indeed all UK companies, will continue to benefit from the EU’s trade deals during the post-Brexit transition period.

But once the transition period ends on December 31 2020, distilleries in the north will longer benefit from the same EU FTAs, that their counterparts in the south will enjoy.

Speaking to the Irish News, Mr Lavelle, said: “One of the regrettable consequences of Brexit is that Northern Irish distilleries will not qualify for the benefits of new EU trade agreements going forward. “For this reason we have been actively lobbying the UK Government to seek to replicate EU agreements,” he said.

“We understand the UK Government are in negotiations with the Vietnamese authorities on a potential bilateral agreement to mirror the EU agreement.

I will be attending meetings in Whitehall next Monday where I will continue to press the UK Government to maximise trading opportunities for Irish whiskey distilleries in Northern Ireland.

“We are completely opposed to any differentiation in trading conditions. We do not want a two-tier Irish whiskey industry.”