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UK must protect Scotch whisky post-Brexit, says Scottish official

Scotland's economy minister has warned London against failing to safeguard the country's iconic beverage after Brexit. Roughly one-third of all exported Scotch arrives in EU countries, making the bloc its largest market.

Scottish Economy Secretary Keith Brown on Sunday called on the British government to secure the status of Scotch whisky in the wake of the UK's exit from the EU.

In a letter addressed to British officials, Brown warned that failing to define Scotch whisky's status could threaten an industry worth roughly 4 billion British pounds (4.5 billion euros, $5.3 billion).

"Aside from being a key part of Scottish culture and identity, our whisky supports around 20,000 jobs," said Brown.

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"It is vital that we continue to have robust legal protection of Scotch whisky, which is why I have sought clarification from the UK government as to whether Scotch whisky featured in discussions during last week's trade visit by the (US) Secretary of State for International Trade."

Special EU requirements

Under current EU legislation, whisky is clearly defined by a set of requirements, including that the alcoholic beverage must mature for at least three years in a barrel in order to retain the title of Scotch whisky.

However, during free trade talks under the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) framework, Washington expressed interest in relaxing the stringent definition of whisky to open the market.

Roughly 90 percent of Scotch whisky production is exported, of which one-third arrives in EU countries. The second-largest Scotch whisky market is the US.

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In May, the Scotch Whisky Association warned that the continuing growth of the Scotch whisky industry was partially dependent on how well the government negotiated Brexit.

"We have been active in calling on the government to ensure the UK has as open a trade policy as possible, protects Scotch whisky and delivers change with the minimum of disruption," the association said.

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ls/tj (AP, dpa)

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