Scottish fishing companies protest against Brexit trade deal at Whitehall

PA Scotland
·3-min read

Scottish seafood lorries parked in central London as the industry protested against being “tied in knots with paperwork” by the Brexit fishing deal.

Footage showed a number of HGVs descending on roads near 10 Downing Street in response to the issues they have faced in exporting seafood to the EU.

A number of Scottish seafood companies, as well as a few English ones, lined up on roads near Parliament Square in protest.

Exports of fresh fish and seafood have been severely disrupted by delays since the UK’s transition period ended on December 31.

Trucks carried messages that were critical of the Government
Trucks carried messages that were critical of the Government (SCFF)

The new checks and paperwork has been causing massive delays for the industry since the UK left the European Union, with seafood producers growing increasingly frustrated at the lack of government action.

Lorries transporting freshly-caught produce have been held up at distribution hubs and many have struggled to enter into France.

On Sunday, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab claimed the delays were just “teething problems”, adding: “I’m not convinced that that is the result of the agreement.”

Some Scottish fishermen have taken to landing their catch in Denmark to avoid the “bureaucratic system” that exports to Europe now involve.

A spokesperson from DR Collin & Son, who were taking part in the protest, said: “The industry is being tied in knots with paperwork requirements which would be easy enough to navigate, given that companies have put in the time and training in order to have all the relevant procedures in place for 1st January 2021.

“However, all the training is going to waste as the technology is outdated and cannot cope with the demands being placed on it – which in turn is resulting in no produce being able to leave the UK.

“These are not ‘teething issues’ as reported by the Government and the consequences of these problems will be catastrophic on the lives of fishermen, fishing towns and the shellfish industry as a whole.

“Action needs to be taken urgently to allow the procedures to be realigned in a manner which reflects the time restraints faced in the export of live shellfish to Europe.

“We are trying to adapt our business together with our customers with a view to come into line with the new regulations, however, no-one is listening to our industry.”

Alasdair Hughson, Scottish Creel Fisherman’s Federation chairman, said: “It is inevitable that the UK Shellfish industry would want to make its voice heard loud and clear on this matter.

“After the year that all of these businesses have had, struggling to survive against the odds, now faced with this situation, to now find themselves being blamed for not completing forms correctly when they are all just trying to follow Government guidelines which are unclear and changing all of the time.

“If this debacle does not improve very soon we are looking at many established businesses coming to the end of the line.

“All we want to do is roll up our sleeves and get to work supporting our communities. We don’t have all the answers but they are out there and we need to find them.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused the Government of trying to blame fishing communities for the issues caused by Brexit.

Sir Keir said: “They are beyond frustrated, they are pretty angry about what’s gone on because the Government has known there would be a problem with fishing and particularly the sale of fish into the EU for years.

“It didn’t prepare for it and now it is doing the classic thing of the Government, which is trying to blame the fishing communities rather than accepting it’s their failure to prepare.”