Britain's drinks industry at risk from Brexit, warns David Cameron


Britain's booming booze trade would be put at risk if the country quits the European Union, David Cameron has warned.

Jobs and investment in the wine and spirits industry face being threatened if the UK has to renegotiate international deals on alcohol sales, the Prime Minister said.

Gin drinkers are also better off as a result of the UK's membership because the country has boosted quality standards for the tipple across the union, it was claimed.

Mr Cameron said: "Britain will be stronger, safer and better off in a reformed Europe than out on our own, because we will have full participation in the free trade area, bringing jobs, investment, lower prices and financial security. That means real certainty so you can plan for the future.

"On the other hand, those who want to leave Europe can't tell you if British businesses would be able to access Europe's free trade area; or if your job is safe, how much your prices would rise, how much your mortgage would be at risk, or if the funding for your local school or hospital is secure. They are offering you risk at a time of uncertainty. It is a leap in the dark."

Britain's wine and spirits industry made £1.8 billion in EU exports for the UK economy last year.

Gin exports to South Africa have increased from "virtually nothing" to more than £2m since the signing of a trade deal and trebled to South Korea following the agreement in 2011, Downing Street said.

The Government ensured new regulations in 2008 for the spirit reflected British standards, it added.

British wine producers could find it more difficult to compete with France, Italy and Spain outside the EU, it was claimed.

The industry, which employs 600,000 workers, makes hundreds of millions a year from the EU's 35 free trade deals with more than 50 countries, according to the analysis.

No 10 pointed to a survey by the Wine and Spirit Trade Association that found 90% of respondents wanted the UK to stay in the trading bloc.

The Association's chief executive, Miles Beale, said: "The vast majority of our membership is clear that the industry will better be able to invest, grow and create jobs if the UK remains in the single market. The industry needs a powerful UK voice within the EU to ensure that we can shape and influence regulations that will impact on the trade and its access to the EU's 500 million consumers.

"It is clear that the UK spirit sector's strong exports performance and our place at the centre of the international wine industry are hugely positive for the UK and its consumers. There is real concern that this would be put at risk as a result of the UK exiting the EU."

James McGrory, Britain Stronger In Europe's chief campaign spokesman, said: "We should raise a glass to the UK's booming drinks industry - one of the many sectors made stronger by our place in Europe. It would be bad news to call time on Britain's membership of the single market which supports jobs, growth and low prices for Brits here at home.

"That's why so many British industries, including financial services, car makers and farming, have made clear that leaving would be a blow to them and the economy. Until the Leave campaigns can say what 'out' looks like, and how British jobs and trade will be protected, it's a risk we can't afford to take."

Matthew Elliott, chief executive of Vote Leave, said: "Remain campaigners are desperate to do Britain down and are ignoring the fact that the EU has made drinks for Brits more expensive.

"We are the fifth largest economy in the world and should be able to sell whisky freely from Birmingham to Bombay, yet our EU membership prevents us from striking free trade deals with vitally important markets.

"If we vote Leave and take back control then our trade will prosper - something both drinkers and exporters can raise a glass to."