A letter from Secretary George Eustice MP, reveals that he knew about LBMs export ban into the EU from December 2020
The UK Secretary for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs George Eustice MP, is coming under pressure due to statements made on the issue of live bivalve mollusc (LBM) exports to the European Union.
Minister Eustice has claimed several times in Parliament that the UK had an ‘understanding’ with the EU over the exports of LBMs only for the EU to have pulled out of the deal in January. He and his department (Defra) have also claimed that issue of LBMs exports from Category B waters to the EU would be rectified when a new a new health certificate will come into existence, something which has not been acknowledged by the EU.
Last week, attending the Fisheries APPG webinar, the Minister repeated the claim again, but a letter addressed from the Secretary himself has shown that he was aware of the ban on LBMs being exported to the EU coming into effect on the 01 January 2020.
It has come to light in a series of letters from the Secretary and Defra that as early as 10 December 2020, they knew that the EU would no longer be importing LBMs from the UK.
In the letter signed-off by George Eustice it states under Prohibitions and restrictions on EU trade:
“Prohibitions and Restrictions (P&R) are new trade requirements that will apply to certain commodities from 1 January 2021. These trade requirements are based in EU law and prevent or restrict the import of certain goods from third countries where the EU believe there is a potential for them to present a level of risk. If you currently export to the EU commodities which the EU does not accept from third countries, you will no longer be able to export these from 1 January 2021.
“P&R will also affect imports into GB from the EU as of 1 January 2021 when the UK will carry over into domestic law EU provisions on P&R applicable to imports from third countries, including the EU. To address this, we have legislative plans to permit the import from EU to GB of certain prohibited products of animal origin (POAO) affected by P&R from January to April. This would bring the application of those P&R imported from the EU in line with the phased approach to import checks as detailed in the Border Operating Model.”
On the list of Prohibitions and Restrictions Impacting Defra Imports and Exports (Fish) attached in the letter’s Annex it states that:
“Wild harvested live bivalve molluscs from Cat B waters for depuration in EU
“Exports of wild harvested live bivalve molluscs (LBM) from Cat B waters for depuration in the EU will be prohibited, as there is no EHC suitable for them. This will not apply to the export of LBMs from Class A waters (which can continue under POAO EHC).
Exports will not be possible.”
Again, in a letter to the Shellfish Association of Great Britain, Defra indicated that from the 21 April 2021, exporters of LBMs from Category B waters around the UK will be able to acquire a “new health certificate” which would enable them to import into the EU.
The letter stated:
“However, it is important to note that for wild capture LBMs from class B/C waters a new certificate will be required, which the EU have indicated will be made available from 21 April 2021 as part of the new EU Animal Health Regulations. This certificate will be used for wild LBMs originating in the wild as well as those from aquaculture farms, when they are intended for depuration facilities in the EU.
“Under the EU rules regarding movements of animals from third countries, such as the UK will be classed from 1 January 2020, GB businesses that export or intent export wild caught class B/C LBMs will be unable to do so from the 1 January until the introduction of the relevant certificate expected on 21 April 2021. LBMs from GB aquaculture businesses is an Class B waters will be unaffected an can be exported using the health certificate mentioned above.”
This is causing confusion for shellfish exporters across the UK who have been hit by the live export ban.
Independent Fisheries Consultant, Terri Portmann from Plymouth criticised the continual contradictory statements from Secretary Eustice and Defra saying, “I have seen no evidence the EU said a rule change on April 21st 2021 would sort this? To the contrary the EU position seems consistent with the documents released so far.”