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‘An industry has collapsed’: Call for Brexit ‘grace period’ on seafood denied

Fishing industry pleas for an export “grace period” have been rejected by Environment Secretary George Eustice.

Seafood bosses have been calling on the UK Government to negotiate a six-month red-tape hiatus with the EU while exporters and port staff get used to new post-Brexit paperwork and processes at the border.

Exports of fresh fish and seafood have been severely disrupted by new customs checks since the transition period ended this month.

Industry insiders have estimated the delays are costing the sector more than £1 million a day.

Last week Donna Fordyce, chief executive at Seafood Scotland, called on ministers to agree a six-month grace period to “allow the systems that process the paperwork to be fixed and tested”.

Grace period
Environment Secretary George Eustice.

The SNP’s fisheries spokeswoman, Deidre Brock, took up the case in the Commons this morning, saying : “Europe’s biggest fish market, in Peterhead, is empty.

“An industry has collapsed because this government’s ideological blinkers meant it made a mess of negotiations and ministers think it’s a teething problem or a paperwork problem, or it’s not their fault.

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“Will ministers now tell us how they intend to sort this out?

“Will the government go back to the EU to seek a grace period and new negotiations on market access, as many in the sector are asking for, even if that means accepting some regulatory alignment?”

Mr Eustice replied with one word: “No”.

Grace period

He later added: “The trade and cooperation agreement establishes tariff-free trade for fisheries exports to the EU, and also establishes a five-and-a-half-year, multi-annual agreement on access and sharing arrangements for quota.

“Under the agreement, there are year-on-year transfers of fishing opportunities from EU fleets to the UK fleet.

“Overall the EU relinquished 25% of the quota that they’ve previously been allowed to catch in UK waters.

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“There are gains both in the North Sea, and in the west of Scotland.”

Mr Eustice also pointed out that seafood firms can claim up to £100,000 in compensation for sales lost due to Brexit border delays.

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