THE Scotch whisky sector is calling for a clearer direction of travel from the Government as the UK prepares to leave the EU.

The message was raised by Lindesay Low, deputy legal director of the scotch whisky Association (SWA), speaking at an event hosted by Lawrie IP, an independent Scottish firm of patent and trade mark attorneys.

Lawrie IP has estimated that, In the case of a No-Deal Brexit, the action that may need to be taken to ensure businesses across all sectors continue to have UK coverage for their EU trademarks could cost more than £500 million – about £50m for UK companies. That is because pending EU trademarks – of which there are almost 340,000 – will not have legal effect in the UK, and applicants will have to reapply, which is expected to cost more than £35m for UK businesses.

On the evening, Low discussed the need for legal protection of Scotland’s national drink. He covered the possible impact of Brexit on intellectual property (IP) and emphasised the need to maintain the status of Scotch whisky as a geographical indication (GI) – a product that must be made in Scotland from water, cereals and yeast and matured in oak barrels for at least three years.

He explained: “With the EU being the largest trading bloc for Scotch whisky, Brexit is a matter for concern.”

Low says the Scotch whisky industry has been assured by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) that it has a UK system of GIs ready to go as soon as the UK leaves the EU which will guarantee protection.

He added: “In the EU, we have to remember that Scotch Whisky and other food products already have a registered right that protects EU consumers from fraud.

“The European Commission would have to actively take away that right and we feel that is very unlikely.

“The possible slight complication is that, in many overseas markets around the world, we gain access and protection through agreements between the EU and those countries. If we drop out of the EU, we’ll also drop out of those agreements.

"We urge politicians to find a way forward and give the industry certainty.”