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Diageo and Chivas sign letter against ‘Brexit’

The CEOs of Diageo and Chivas Brothers are among business leaders who have signed an open letter calling for Britain to remain part of the European Union.

The CEOs of Diageo and Chivas Brothers have voiced their opposition to a ‘Brexit’

The letter, published in The Times, has been published ahead of a referendum on Britain’s membership in the European Union on 23 June 2016.

It received 200 signatories, including Ivan Menezes, CEO of the world’s biggest drinks group Diageo, and Laurent Lacassagne, CEO of Pernod Ricard’s Chivas Brothers arm.

Other drinks-related signatories include: Billy Walker, managing director of The Benriach Distillery company; Alan Clark, CEO of brewer SABMiller; and Paul Walsh, former CEO of Diageo and now CEO of Compass Group, who signed in a “personal capacity”.

The business leaders argue that a so-called ‘Brexit’ would “deter investment, threaten jobs and put the economy at risk”. In full, the letter reads:

Sir, The businesses we lead represent every sector and region of the UK. Together we employ hundreds of thousands of people across the country.

Following the prime minister’s renegotiation, we believe that Britain is better off staying in a reformed European Union. He has secured a commitment from the EU to reduce the burden of regulation, deepen the single market and to sign off crucial international trade deals.

Business needs unrestricted access to the European market of 500 million people in order to continue to grow, invest and create jobs. We believe that leaving the EU would deter investment, threaten jobs and put the economy at risk. Britain will be stronger, safer and better off remaining a member of the EU.

Power for trade agreements

Diageo and Pernod Ricard have previously voiced their support for Britain to remain part of the EU, citing the union’s power to secure trade agreements around the world as imperative to the growth of the spirits industry.

Speaking at a roundtable in London following the release of Diageo’s H1 financial results, Ivan Menezes said: “EU membership is very important for us, and it’s very important for Scotch whisky. It’s easier to trade in the EU and around the world. Scotch relies on getting trade agreements around the world.”

Meanwhile, Alexandre Ricard, CEO of French drinks group Pernod Rciard, parent group of Scotch whisky producer Chivas Brothers, said his was a “pro-European company”.

“I believe Europe needs a strong and vibrant membership and having the UK as part of the EU strengthens the union in trade agreements around the world,” he said. “But we are not there to comment, it’s up to the British people. The world is not called the ‘world union’. There are many trade differences around the world.”

This week, trade body the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) also made its position clear with regards to the upcoming vote, claiming the UK’s membership in the EU is “central to Scotch whisky’s success”.

David Frost, chief executive of the SWA, said: “We believe it’s important for the United Kingdom to remain part of the European Union. The EU’s single market, including its regulation of food and drink, and its single trade policy, are central to Scotch Whisky’s success. The single market lets us trade across the EU simply and easily. The EU’s weight and expertise in international trade helps give us fair access to overseas markets. In all these areas British influence can shape the rules in a way that supports us.

“The agreement secured with the EU includes a welcome re-statement of the importance of a deeper and freer single market and for the EU to be more ambitious and free-trading internationally. Future reforms in these areas – with the UK able to influence the debate in Brussels – would benefit the whisky industry.”

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