Is there a deepening crisis in the seafood industry that is being ignored by the UK Government
The UK Government is in denial and is ignoring the deepening crisis in the seafood industry as a poorly thought-out Brexit deal.
Scotland’s fishing and seafood industry took part in virtual briefing sessions with MPs at the Scottish Affairs Committee and MSPs at Holyrood’s Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Affairs Committee.
Attending from the Scottish fishing and seafood industry were Jimmy Buchan, Chief Executive of the Scottish Seafood Association, Elaine Whyte, Executive Secretary of the Clyde Fishermen’s Association and James Withers, Chief Executive of Scotland Food and Drink.
Issues the Westminster government has referred to as ‘teething problems’ was examined by the Committee. These included border delays on both sides of the English Channel due to red-tape with the Scottish seafood industry losing a reported £1 million a day, Scottish fishing vessels being tied-up and other vessels taking their catch across the North Sea to fish auctions in Denmark, and the current situation with the quota allocations were examined by the Committee.
On the issue of border delays getting better or worse Mr Withers told the Scottish Affairs Committee: “I actually think the biggest challenge, and I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days, I don’t think it’s just the sheer weight of paperwork, I don’t think it’s been IT systems crashing in the UK and in France.
“I don’t think it’s been the missing commodity codes and HMRC systems failing, I don’t even think it’s been the loads held up due to forms being filled out in the wrong colour of ink.
“I think the biggest single challenge we have just now is denial. I think it is denial, from the UK government in particular, of the scale of the problem.”
He added: “We can’t accept that this is short-term issues, that it is teething problems, or even the statement from Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) this week that trade continues to flow smoothly, because it doesn’t.”
Scottish Seafood Association chief executive Jimmy Buchan told the Scottish Affairs Committee that exports to the EU were “improving” but added it was “far from being perfect”.
He said: “The government, to a degree, is still in denial.
“This is not teething problems, these are issues that we need to sit down with the government, and they need to sit down with the EU Commission, and sort these things out.”
The concern was taken-up that this could be escalated if the UK and EU would diverge in the future. On the issue James Withers and Jimmy Buchan warned on the future of the industry.