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Fishing sector anger over post-Brexit checks


By David Porter

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Scottish seafood exporters have expressed anger over port delays in France
Scottish seafood exporters have expressed anger over port delays in France

Chief executive of Seafood Scotland, Donna Fordyce has joined with north-east seafood exporters to express their concerns for the tradc following the first post-Brexit food movements to the EU.

She said: “The last 48 hours has really delivered what was expected – new bureaucratic non-tariff barriers, and no one body with the tools to be able to fix the situation.

“It’s a perfect storm for Scottish seafood exporters.

"Weakened by Covid-19, and the closure of the French border before Christmas, the end of the Brexit transition period has unleashed layer upon layer of administrative problems, resulting in queues, border refusals and utter confusion.

“IT problems in France meant consignments were diverted from Boulogne sur Mer to Dunkirk, which was unprepared as it wasn’t supposed to be at the export frontline.

"There have also been HMRC IT issues on the UK side that need to resolved ASAP regarding certification.

"A lack of knowledge and understanding of the required paperwork means some companies are ill prepared for the new checks, which are taking far longer because of the mistakes being uncovered.

"When the systems settle down, checks should be carried out on samples from each load but now entire consignments are having to be checked to satisfy requirements.

“These businesses are not transporting toilet rolls or widgets.

"They are exporting the highest quality, perishable seafood which has a finite window to get to markets in peak condition.

"If the window closes these consignments go to landfill.

"The knock-on effect of export falling over is that the fishing fleet will have little reason to go out.

"In a very short time we could see the destruction of a centuries old market which contributes significantly to the Scottish economy.

“The problem is no longer hypothetical.

"It is happening right now.

"We are working with industry, Government, and other bodies to try to mop up the mess to allow trade to flow again.

"We are doing all we can to help companies get the paperwork done.

"It will take time to fix – which we know many seafood companies can’t afford right now.”

Responding to reports of delays Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “The Scottish Government, together with Food Standards Scotland (FSS) and Scottish Local Authorities, have been working intensively for many months to mitigate the worst impacts of the new requirements for Export Health Certificates (EHCs) – which is a direct result of the UK Government’s approach to EU Exit.

"This has included engaging with businesses and organisations like the Scottish Seafood Association to make sure that everyone knows what needs to be done to get products to their key markets in the EU.

He continued: “We have been working with logistics companies to provide an EHC service at a number of central Scotland logistics hubs, thereby reducing the burden on Local Authorities.

"We are all learning – including businesses – how to manage the considerable burden of this new bureaucracy on exporting food products.

"We know how frustrating, time consuming and indeed costly this is for Scottish businesses – we warned the UK Government that exporters needed much more clarity much sooner than they got on what the export process would involve after the transition period ended and that its plans to leave the single market would create barriers like this.

“FSS has the necessary veterinary capacity at the hubs and we will continue to work closely with businesses and organisations to ensure that we are all doing everything possible to minimise delays and expedite product journeys.

"That includes applying an appropriate level of scrutiny to ensure that businesses are accurately completing all necessary paperwork.

"It is far better for problems to be identified and resolved here in Scotland and not have consignments being turned back hundreds of miles away or refused when they arrive at the end of their journey.

“SG and FSS are working closely with industry to address these issues and it will need a collective and co-operative approach between government and industry to ensure this vital sector can continue to export.”



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