Prime Minister asked to intervene with Donald Trump in 25% tariff on whisky

7 October 2019, 18:54

The potential 25% tariffs will come into place on October the 18th
The potential 25% tariffs will come into place on October the 18th. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Boris Johnson has been asked to intervene on behalf of whisky producers with US President Donald Trump over a potential 25% tariff on the product.

Former Scotland secretary David Mundell was asking an urgent question in the Commons, he said 3,000 jobs could be at risk in the industry if the tariffs go ahead as planned on the 18th of October.

This was Mr Mundell's first question in 14 years from the backbenches.

International trade minister Conor Burns said the Government was "disappointed" in the decision of the US administration.

Mr Mundell asked the Minister to confirm if the UK leaves the EU then the tariffs would not automatically apply to UK produced whisky.

He asked the Minister to confirm who he was speaking to in the US and said he hoped the tariffs would be revoked "before they are imposed."

Mr Burns said the decisions remain those of the US government, adding the Foreign Secretary had spoken to her counterpart.

Mr Burns said while the UK remains a "champion of the international rules-based order," the "Government is disappointed by the United States administration that it intends to impose tariffs on the UK and our European partners following the most recent ruling".

He added: "The United Kingdom is clear that resorting to tariffs is in no-one's interest. Low tariffs and free trade underpin prosperity and jobs in the UK and globally."

The US is set to impose tariffs on $7.5bn (£6.1 billion) worth of EU goods after the World Trade Organisation gave consent as retaliation for illegal subsidies the bloc gave to plane-maker Airbus.

This includes a 25% tariff on Scotch whisky, which the UK exports £1 billion worth to the US each year.

Donald Trump called it 'a nice victory' on Twitter, saying the 'European Union has for many years treated the USA very badly on trade due to tariffs, trade barriers, and more.'

Mr Mundell said small and medium-sized Scotch whisky producers in rural Scotland stand to lose out most from the tariff schedule.

He added: "It was my duty to welcome President Trump to Scotland last year and during the course of that event he told me that 'he loved Scotland'.

"Now I'm sure if the Prime Minister was able to convey directly to President Trump the damage that these proposals will do to Scotland, particularly rural Scotland, that could have an impact."

Responding, Mr Burns said: "The tariffs are not in place, they have got 10 days as my right honourable friend said. We would urge the United States to think again.

"These tariffs are in no-one's interest. The President of the United States prides himself on being the champion of the little guy and the little business.

"Well, it's the little guy and the little business who will be harmed most directly if these tariffs come into play."