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‘Frustrated, Disappointed, Disillusioned’: Fishermen Warn of Worse to Come As Brexit Bites

The betrayal of the fishing industry through Britain’s withdrawal from the EU shows no signs of abating, reports Sam Bright

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the Opportunis IV fishing trawler, during a visit to Peterhead fish market near Aberdeen. Photo: Duncan McGlynn/PA Archive/PA Images

‘Frustrated, Disappointed, Disillusioned’Fishermen Warn of Worse to Comeas Brexit Bites

The betrayal of the fishing industry through Britain’s withdrawal from the EU shows no signs of abating, reports Sam Bright

British fishermen are bracing themselves for further chaos as post-Brexit changes cause export confusion for many suppliers.

New customs procedures have caused many deliveries, heading from the UK to Europe, to be halted in recent days.

DFDS, a Danish company that acts as the industry’s biggest logistics provider, has highlighted that delays have been caused by the roll-out of a new IT system designed to manage the exports, as well as many exporters struggling with new, onerous customs documentation.

As a result, lorry-loads of seafood destined for the continent have been rejected, owing to the delays in transporting the goods.

Although the Government is straining to resolve the situation, the industry is not optimistic.

“The fear is that these delays are happening at a time of year when export volumes are low,” Barrie Deas, CEO of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO), told Byline Times. “As they increase there is scope for increased chaos.”

He also added that, even if the Government fixes this issue, the industry will still be saddled with the sub-optimal terms of Boris Johnson’s post-Brexit trade deal.

“The fishing industry remains frustrated, disappointed and disillusioned that so little was achieved” through the agreement, Deas says, claiming that “some fleets fear that they will be in a worse position in 2021 than they were in 2020.”

This is because, he says, although UK fishermen will be able to increase the quota of fish they catch in domestic waters, their intake may be insufficient to offset the goods previously acquired from other EU countries via the quota swap system. Previously, the UK was able to exchange fishing quotas – the national allocation of fish allowed to be caught in certain waters – with other countries in order to increase their stocks. But the UK’s participation in this system ended on 1 January 2021.

Under the terms of the new agreement, 25% of the UK fishing quota taken by EU boats will be transferred back to the UK over the next five-and-a-half years, with periodic negotiations thereafter. However, at one stage, reports suggested that the Government was lobbying for closer to 80%.

Deas also says that there is currently a lack of parity between imports and exports of fish. Due to the UK’s relatively relaxed customs regime, the passage of EU goods across borders has been relatively unencumbered.

This all stands in stark contrast to the Prime Minister’s previous promises. After concluding negotiations, Johnson pledged to “great fish fanatics in this country that we will, as a result of this deal, be able to catch and eat quite prodigious quantities of extra fish”.

“We have demanded that the Government takes steps at both the practical and diplomatic level and provide a financial safety-net for the businesses in the supply chain at risk of failure through no fault of their own,” Deas told Byline Times.

Speaking to the House of Commons Liaison Committee on Wednesday, the Prime Minister promised to compensate the fishermen for the issues they have faced and maintained that he was confident that it was only a short-term hiccup.

Fishermen, meanwhile, have threatened to dump rotten shellfish outside Parliament in protest.

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