Whisky, Goats and a ‘Special Relationship’

From the deliberations of two great statesmen would come a unique proclamation announced on August 14th 1941; the Atlantic Charter.

This was a statement issued by Roosevelt and Churchill setting out American and British goals for the world after World War II.  Among its major points was ‘the easing of trade restrictions’.

Last October, as part of an ongoing dispute between the US and EU over subsidies for the aircraft manufacturing industry, the US imposed 25% tariffs.  These tariffs, not only had a significant impact on the export of aircraft but also on a range of luxury goods, including single malt whisky, shortbread and cashmere products, exported from the EU.

Although the dispute was with the EU, Scotland, in particular, has suffered. Since the tariffs came into force, we know that Scottish Whisky, Shortbread and Cashmere exports have dropped significantly, meaning big losses to companies, all now made worse by the impact of Covid-19.

Earlier this week, it emerged the US had lifted tariffs on shortbread and some other products, after lobbying by Liz Truss, the UK’s international trade secretary, during the latest round of talks on a new trade deal.  However, the 25% tariff on Malt Whisky, Scotch Whisky Liqueurs and Cashmere has been retained and the U.K. cannot finalise a comprehensive deal with the U.S. until its post-divorce relationship with the EU is clarified.

It is ironic that one of the other major points in the Atlantic Charter, signed 79 years ago today was ‘the wish to see sovereign rights and self- government restored’.  So perhaps, as we hurtle towards the 31 December 2020 and the end of the Brexit transition period that spirit of the Atlantic Charter will prevail once more and these tariffs will be lifted; deal or no deal.

Although the Charter was not an official document, but rather a communiqué its historic achievement rests on the endorsement it received on 1 January 1942, from those countries putting their signatures to the United Nations Declaration. They pledged themselves to adhere to its every principle.

“Diplomacy is the art of telling people to go to hell in such a way that they ask for directions”.
Winston Churchill