The The Bourbon Alliance has submitted official comments to the UK Department of International Trade, outlining the negative impacts its retaliatory 25% tariff on Bourbon and other American Whiskeys are having on the UK’s hospitality sector, and urging for their immediate removal.
The The Bourbon Alliance is a coalition of industry stakeholders whose livelihoods depend on being able to import US Whiskey into the UK. Supporters of the campaign to #FreeTheSpirit include some of the best known, household names, as well as an army of independent distillers, hospitality venues across the UK, retailers, distributors, festival organisers, and Bourbon fans.
The campaign – that includes Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Brown-Forman and an army of craft distillers, restaurants and pubs, retailers, wholesalers, and US Whiskey fans – called on the Prime Minister, Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP and Trade Secretary, Rt Hon Liz Truss MP to make good on their promises and cut the tariffs immediately.
The The Bourbon Alliance encouraged the UK Government to do “the right thing and deliver on Prime Minster Boris Johnson’s statement regarding the tariff.” During a campaign visit to a Scotch Whisky distillery in the 2019 general election campaign, the Prime Minister said ‘once we come out of the EU, those tariffs will not apply’ – the Alliance is now calling on the PM to deliver this promise. The Alliance also urged the Government’s Trade Secretary, Liz Truss to deliver on her own promise to ‘see an urgent settlement of the dispute so we can remove these retaliatory tariffs on things like bourbon’. The Alliance said they hoped that “recent momentum in trans-Atlantic trade, and the successful resolution of the Boeing-Airbus dispute would pave the way for a zero-to-zero trade agreement between the US and the UK”.
Since the UK first imposed its tariffs on American Whiskeys in June 2018, American Whiskey exports to the UK declined by 53%. Following the recent five-year suspension of tariffs on UK and US distilled spirits, including Scotch Whisky, in the WTO Boeing-Airbus disputes, the UK’s imposition of a 25% tariff on American Whiskeys makes it the only spirits category subject to tariffs in connection to ongoing transatlantic trade disputes.
The UK has chosen to maintain these tariffs since leaving the EU – and before 31 December 2020 British consumers were footing the bill, fronting 22.8% of the total EU whiskey tariffs (on €203m of US exports) and continue to be collateral damage in the ongoing UK-US dispute over steel.
The hospitality industry has been hit harder by the pandemic than almost any other sector in the UK; venues have been closed for the majority of the year with 10,000 licensed premises shutting their doors for good. It’s time for the UK Government to act in the national interest and remove these tariffs. These retaliatory tariffs don’t help the UK – in fact, investment has gone elsewhere in the world, UK consumers have paid over £55m in tariffs on imported American Whiskies and businesses like mine have not been able to launch in the UK.
Let’s build on the momentum in trans-Atlantic trade discussions, and to remove the tariffs to help reboot the UK economy.
– Martha Dalton: Founder of the Bourbon Alliance and Director of Never Say Die Bourbon
We have been engulfed in a trade war that has nothing to do with us and our consumers. These tariffs have meant our members are not only footing the bill for Europe but are unable to enjoy the Bourbon they love.
On top of this, it has had a massive impact on consumer choice and a detrimental effect to those UK businesses who depend on it, as well as the wider UK economy.
– Andrew Watson: Co-Founder of the British Bourbon Society
As the owner of a UK based distributor of American Whiskey, I know from first-hand experience that US distillers and drinks conglomerates have been channelling more or all of their marketing dollars to projects at home and in Asia. This is lost stimulus that the UK drinks industry, associated sectors and our workers are not benefitting from. Whilst the tariff has undoubtably made trading conditions for my business more challenging and increased the risk for our trade customers to back our category.
The ultimate victims are the loyal consumers of American whiskey who for the last 3 years and counting have been punished with these tariffs. The 25% ‘tax’ is levied on not just the whiskey but the freight from the US and shipping insurance, the consumer also pays 20% vat on top. This was an EU tariff, it’s now a UK tariff and their continuation looks like very bad value for UK consumers and businesses alike.
– Nathan Dawes: Co-Founder of American Whiskey distributor, N10 Bourbons
In the UK we have always had a love affair with American Whiskey and never more so than now. The distilling scene in the USA has never been more exciting and we in the UK are not able to tap into this because we are held back by these tariffs. We are not just penalising the American government with these taxes but we are penalising our own consumers to whom the costs of these ridiculous tariffs are being passed on.
We already have some of the highest duty rates on alcohol in the UK and this is just one more tax. Now we have left the EU, should we not be creating better alliances with other countries rather than putting up more walls?
– Dawn Davies MW: Head Buyer, Speciality Drinks