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Calls made for UK to suspend US whisky tariffs as EU agrees deal

Published:  01 November, 2021

The Bourbon Alliance has called on the UK Government to remove tariffs on American Whiskeys following news that the US and EU have agreed a deal.

The EU has agreed to remove the retaliatory tariffs on Bourbon and other American whiskey imports which were introduced in June 2018 in the wake of the steel and aluminium trade dispute.

The EU imposed the retaliatory tariffs in response to the decision by former president Donald Trump to put duties on imported aluminium and steel. This move ended 25 years of tariff-free trade in whiskies between the EU and the US.

The Bourbon Alliance, which is a coalition of industry stakeholders whose livelihoods depend on being able to import US whiskey, have called on the UK Government to immediately replicate this agreement.

At present, the UK is still implementing the tariff imposed by the EU, despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson stating that “once we come out of the EU, those tariffs will not apply” during a campaign visit to a Scotch whisky distillery in the run-up to the 2019 general election.

Co-founder of the Bourbon Alliance, Martha Dalton said it was time to realise the opportunities of Brexit and to “cut the tariff for good”.

“We welcome this announcement and congratulate our colleagues on both sides of the Atlantic who have worked so hard to support our sector,” she said. “The UK must now focus on reaching a similar resolution, working with colleagues in the US to finally remove the tariff, which continues to cause such disruption to the UK economy.”

Miles Beale, CEO of the Wine and Spirits Trade Association, said: “It is welcome news that the US and EU have made such significant progress on the steel and aluminium dispute and taken US whiskey producers out of the tariffs firing line. The UK must now capitalise on this momentum without delay, suspend the tariffs, and quickly work with the US to resolve the dispute.”

He added: “At a time when the economy is in recovery from continued lockdown, it is vital that we move to support our UK spirits importers and the hard-hit hospitality industry at pace.”

In March 2021 the US, EU and UK managed to reach an agreement to end tariffs for four months and a cooperative framework then followed in June 2021, confirming that tariffs for single malt Scotch and Irish Whisky would be suspended for five years. This saw the end to tariffs on Scotch whisky exports to the US.

A 25% tariff had been imposed on single malt Scotch whisky in October 2019 centred on an ongoing trade dispute concerning Airbus and Boeing. However, tariffs on American Bourbons and whiskies were not part of the agreement.