POLITICS
02/03/2021 17:41 GMT

Boris Johnson's Brexit Deal 'Fails To Deliver For UK Fishing Industry'

The PM made fish a central focus of Brexit talks and promised to "take back control" of UK waters – but it's not going to plan.

It was supposed to be one of the big symbolic wins of Boris Johnson’s clean break, hard Brexit strategy.

But just two months after the end of the transition period, the UK fishing industry is up in arms about the trade deal the prime minister struck with the EU.

Things are so bad that Martyn Youell, senior fisheries and quota manager at fishing company Waterdance, concluded that Johnson’s trade and cooperation agreement with the EU has “under-delivered greatly”.

And he described as a “particularly poor choice of words” Johnson’s dismissal of various industries’ difficulties in getting to grips with new red tape outside the EU single market as “teething problems”.

Youell said the UK fishing industry was dealing with “systemic issues” after the introduction of new checks and paperwork, which in January inspired seafood hauliers to protest against the trade deal by stacking lorries in central London.

He told the Commons environment, food and rural affairs committee that 80% of the difficulties that were first encountered are still in place and the UK is “miles behind” other nations’ terms of trade with the EU in fish.

Even the PM’s promise to “take back control” of its fishing waters has not yet delivered many gains, after he agreed a five-and-a-half year adjustment period where 25% of EU boats’ rights will be transferred over to the UK ahead of more negotiations on quotas.

The major part of the agreement feels like it has under-delivered greatly for the UK fishing sector

Youell said: “We’ve made some gains in terms of amounts of quota and in terms of the ability to regulate the UK’s waters more autonomously.

“But those I’m afraid are a very minor part of the agreement.

“The major part of the agreement feels like it has under-delivered greatly for the UK fishing sector.”

Seafood Scotland chief executive Donna Fordyce said Brexit has left fish exporters having to deal with “too many systems” for its normally swift supply chain to work properly.

The process whereby fish could be caught and turned into products sold on the EU market within two days, “day one for day two products”, now “can’t be guaranteed”, she said.

Sarah Horsfall, co-chief executive of the Shellfish Association of Great Britain, said her sector was experiencing particular difficulties as it exports live products like crabs and lobsters.

The four hour delays that are hitting the fishing industry have “very considerable impacts” on these products, she said.

When they arrive to market, “more product is dead, and more product is in less good condition”, Horsfall added.

She also described the paperwork required as “excessive” and part of a system that is “unwieldy and very difficult”, with exporters facing costs of between £400 to £600 for each consignment sent to the EU.

Moreover, there is now a complete ban on the export of bivalve molluscs like oysters to the EU.

Last month, the government set up a taskforce to resolve “export issues” facing seafood exporters.

The government has also launched a £23m compensation scheme for the fishing industry.

The UK-wide seafood disruption support scheme will help businesses which suffered a loss due to export problems in January, providing up to £100,000 per firm.