Boris Johnson 'offends millions of Sikhs' with Brexit alcohol boast

Boris Johnson has been accused of offending millions of Sikhs after bragging about the post-Brexit trade benefits of exporting Scotch whisky during a visit to a temple.

The Foreign Secretary used alcohol as an example of the benefits of a trade deal between the UK and India during a Conservative Party visit to the temple in Bristol.

“I hope I’m not embarrassing anybody here by saying that when we go to India, we have to bring ‘clinky’ in our luggage,” he told those assembled. “We have to bring Johnnie Walker.”

“There is a duty of 150% in India on imports of Scottish whisky. So we have to bring it in for our relatives duty free. Imagine what we could do with a trade deal with India, which there will be, because then the tariffs would go.”

His comments provoked an immediate response from the crowd, with one woman shouting: “How dare you talk about alcohol in a Sikh temple?” she said. “You are standing in a Sikh [temple] talking about alcohol, which is absolutely not right.”

Some Sikh teachings consider alcohol to be prohibited.

Jagmeet Singh, of newly formed Sikh-ethos political group The Panth Party, said Mr Johnson’s comments would have insulted millions of Sikhs.

“The UK’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson coming into a Gurdwara and speaking about the whiskey trade with India shows just how out of touch some of our politicians are not just with the Sikh community but with the general British public too,” he said.

A Conservative spokesperson tried to defend Mr Jonson’s comments. “Boris was simply making the point that a free trade deal with, for example, India could be huge for both sides, pointing out that in India, billions of litres of whisky are consumed every year but there is a 150% tariff on imports of Scotch whisky,” he said.

“One lady expressed her views based on a personal situation, but the other 30 attendees warmly welcomed his remarks. He said he was sorry to hear of her personal story, that was all. There was no gaffe … The temple regulars loved him being there.”

But Mr Singh rejected the statement, saying the Tories should be embarrassed.

“It is surprising that a Conservative spokesman has defended Boris Johnson’s comments and tried to make out it was only one woman who has an issue with it,” he said.

“I know for a fact that our Foreign Secretary’s comments in Shri Guru Nanak Prakash Singh Sabha Gurdwara in Bristol will have insulted millions of Sikhs across the world. The Conservatives should be apologetic and embarrassed about the incident.”

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