Warning fishing industry could collapse if more support isn't given

The introduction of new checks and paperwork since the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31 has caused huge disruption to exports of fresh fish and seafood to the EU. Peter Byrne/PA Wire/PA Images
The introduction of new checks and paperwork since the end of the Brexit transition period has caused huge disruption to exports of fresh fish and seafood to the EU. Credit: Peter Byrne/PA Wire/PA Images

In a critical report about the Brexit negotiations and outcome, a group of MPs warn fish and meat export businesses in the South West could become unviable if problems aren't fixed.

The committee has urged ministers to be 'pragmatic' while dealing with the European Union to make improvements. 

Exports have been affected by the changes in the UK's trading arrangements with the EU at the start of the year.

The report highlights what it calls the "substantial red tape" which has been hard for businesses to adapt to quickly.

This also caused delays at borders and meant many businesses lost money as some goods need to be transported quickly to customers.

This is something the Government has referred to as "teething problems" and has offered support to businesses to get used to the changes. 

Tiverton and Honiton MP Neil Parish, who is the chair of the committee, acknowledged some problems have been sorted but others remain.

Even as “teething problems” are sorted, serious barriers remain for British exporters, and it is now imperative that the Government take steps to reduce these.

"It [The Government] must be pragmatic in seeking an agreement with the EU to reduce the red tape that harms both sides, and in the meantime, crack on with giving practical support to small British businesses to sell their produce abroad. 

"By the end of the year, the Government must have developed a digital system for certifying EHCs for imports from the EU, enabling it to then negotiate a reciprocal arrangement." 

A general view of Newlyn Harbour in Cornwall. Credit: Steve Parsons/PA Archive/PA Images

MPs are also calling for the UK to introduce checks on meat and fish imports at the UK's borders sooner than the autumn - which is the current plan.

The committee argues this causes a competitive disadvantage for UK firms selling those products into the EU.

What has the Government said?

The Government says its priority is ensuring trade continues to flow.

A Government spokesperson said: “Our priority is to ensure that trade continues to flow, and we are providing the support that businesses need to adapt to our new trading relationship.

"This includes a £20m SME Brexit Support Fund, dedicated support for fishermen and seafood exporters, tripling the number of official certifiers to meet demand, and developing new digital trade platforms.

"The new timetable for introducing import checks is pragmatic and allows businesses more time to adjust as Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.”

The committee has also said the Government could be more helpful to struggling businesses by being more flexible with compensation for seafood exporters (currently capped at £100,000 per company) and by establishing a ring-fenced fund to help create new distribution hubs, which allow smaller consignments to be grouped into a single lorry load, so reducing transport costs."