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Brexit could ‘apply brakes’ to UK gin boom

The heads of Chivas Brothers and trade body the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) have reiterated calls for the UK to remain part of the EU ahead of next month’s referendum.

Laurent Lacassagne, CEO of Chivas Brothers, has advocated the UK’s position in the European Union

Chivas Brothers CEO Laurent Lacassagne and WSTA chief executive Miles Beale met Damian Hinds, exchequer secretary to the Treasury, at the Beefeater distillery last week to add their voices to calls against a so-called ‘Brexit’.

“While this is clearly a decision that will be and should be made by the UK public, Chivas Brothers believes that being part of the EU supports the continued success and future of spirits made in and exported from the UK like gin and Scotch whisky,” said Lacassagne.

“The EU’s single market, such as its regulation of food and drink, combined with its single trade policy, are vital to our industry and our brands. The result is fair access to markets, which in turn supports jobs, growth and the industry in the long-term.”

In February this year, Lacassagne joined Diageo CEO Ivan Menezes and around 200 other business leaders in signing an open letter claiming that Britain is “better off staying in a reformed European Union”.

The WSTA also officially endorsed the position after 90% of its members who responded to an internal consultation said they believe the UK’s wine and spirits industries will be “stronger” if the nation remains part of the EU.

Beale has now claimed that exiting the EU could hinder the UK’s fast-growing gin industry.

“The great tradition of British gin making is supported by remaining in Europe – for both exporting and quality reasons,” he said. “Exports of gin have risen by 46% in the past five years, with sales to 139 countries, worth £2.18bn over that period.

“In 2015 alone the UK exported £231m worth of gin to non-EU countries and an impressive £189m to consumers inside the EU’s single market.

“Without the benefit of the quality standards underpinned by the European definition of gin our producers and their brands could find themselves with fewer consumers, fewer trading partners and a less glowing global reputation.”

Damian Hinds added: “The UK’s gin industry is undergoing a remarkable renaissance with the rest of the world developing a taste for our world-leading gin.

“The message from industry voices and famous gin makers like Beefeater is clear; leaving the EU would hit exports hard and could apply the brakes to the gin boom. I believe that gin like the rest of our spirits industry will be stronger, safer and better off within a reformed EU.”

Earlier this month, environment secretary Liz Truss was joined by Diageo’s Menezes and Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) chief executive David Frost in arguing that an “out” vote following the referendum could put £1bn worth of Scotch exports to the EU at risk.

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