ABFI Welcomes UK's Pledge To Protect Geographic Indications For Irish Whiskey

By Dave Simpson
ABFI Welcomes UK's Pledge To Protect Geographic Indications For Irish Whiskey

The Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI) has welcomed a commitment by the UK government to protect the all-island geographic indications (GIs) for Irish whiskey, Irish cream liqueur and poitín post-Brexit by introducing a legal framework for GIs in the UK post-Brexit. In a letter to ABFI, British MP and Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food George Eustice made a commitment to protect these three GIs and to preserve ‘Product of Ireland’ status for them if they are to be produced in Northern Ireland after Brexit. Post-Brexit, these three GI spirits are set be the only ones to span both EU and non-EU territory.

Irish whiskey, Irish cream liqueur and poitín are protected at an EU level in a similar manner to Champagne in France or Parma ham in Italy, which means they must be produced on the island of Ireland, in accordance with certain production practices and standards. This ensures high standards and prohibits counterfeit products. As this protection covers the entire island of Ireland, currently these products can be made in both Northern Ireland and the Republic.

The ABFI has engaged with the Irish and UK governments as well as with the EU Commission in relation to the potential impact of Brexit on the three all-island GI spirits. Last month, ABFI wrote to UK Ministers on the need for a future UK legal framework for GIs, protection for GIs in future UK trade agreements and country of origin rules, so these products will not be required to carry ‘Produce of UK’ labels.

In his response to ABFI, Eustice commits the UK to “incorporate relevant EU legislation into domestic law and enable us to make operability changes, providing us with the legal means to make sure that all UK GIs including the three trans-border spirits drink, are fully protected in the UK. This legal framework will ensure Irish whiskey, Irish cream and Irish poitín will continue to be recognised and enforced in Northern Ireland after we leave the EU.”

Eustice also confirmed that “converting EU legislation into domestic law will not place any new restrictions on the use of ‘Product of Ireland’ for trans-border spirits drinks GIs.”


Responding to the letter, Patricia Callan, director of the ABFI, said, “Irish whiskey, cream liqueur and poitín are of significant value to the all-island economy. It is estimated that in 2018 nearly a quarter of a billion (250,000,000) bottles of Irish GI spirits will be sold globally, representing over a billion euro in exports from the island of Ireland.

“ABFI has been consistent in warning of regulatory divergence if the GIs were to be applied and enforced differently north and south post-Brexit.

“We welcome the commitment of the UK government to protect the all-island GIs by introducing a legal framework for GIs in the UK post-Brexit and preserving ‘Product of Ireland’ status for spirits produced in Northern Ireland.”

However, ABFI is calling for further commitments to be made to protect all-island GI spirits in future UK trade agreements.

Callan stated, “We do not want the EU and UK making trade agreements with third countries, where one agreement protects our all-island GI spirits and the other doesn’t. That could lead to legal uncertainty in those third countries regarding the status of these GIs. It could also potentially make protection against counterfeit products in those markets even more difficult.


“We would like a firm commitment from the UK Government that any future trade agreements it negotiates with third countries will include a concrete legal requirement recognising and protecting the three all-island GI spirits, similar to those requirements included as standard practice in EU free trade agreements.

“Minister Eustice did not provide any firm commitment on this point in his letter this week. ABFI will continue to campaign to ensure that our GI spirits will be protected globally.”

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