Urgent work required to support sector.
Streamlining export processes, fixing IT systems and resolving trade issues with the EU must be urgent priorities for a new UK Government led seafood export taskforce, Fisheries Secretary Fergus Ewing has said.
Speaking ahead of the first meeting of the Scottish Seafood Export Taskforce on Friday, Mr Ewing outlined areas where the industry has faced challenges since the end of the EU Exit Transition Period. He said the taskforce’s focus must be on:
- ensuring a more consistent approach and understanding of customs arrangements, including providing clarity to EU vessels landing in the UK
- simplifying the system used for Export Health Certificates - to make it easier for businesses and certifiers to make changes to their paperwork
- aligning HMRC and Defra systems to cut down on errors and make them more user friendly
Mr Ewing said:
“The seafood sector has faced six weeks of relentless bureaucracy and barriers to trading with the EU which have been imposed by a damaging and last minute Brexit deal. While I’m pleased the UK Government has listened to our calls for a taskforce to look at the challenges, I am disappointed that several leading people who are directly involved in the sector and have first-hand experience of handling and dealing with the problems have not been included in the taskforce as I had suggested.
“The taskforce must not be a talking shop, it needs to provide urgent solutions and I will continue to fight to make things better for our fishermen and wider seafood sector. These are not just ‘teething problems’ this is an entirely new way of working that is a direct consequence of the way the UK Government handled Brexit and we must look at ways to minimise these impacts. This is time critical and the taskforce must look at how we can remove barriers to trade, resolve some of the export issues businesses have faced with scallops and cockles, mussels and oysters, and streamline processes. If it is to be effective, it will need the full engagement of UK departments whose systems and processes are the source of much of the frustration encountered by fishermen and processors in all parts of the UK.
“We must do what we can to save the jobs, livelihoods and communities that our valuable seafood sector supports which is why the Scottish Government has stepped in and set up a new £6.45 million scheme for shellfish catchers and producers and trout farmers. This support for businesses who have been hit hardest by EU Exit and the continuing impacts of COVID-19 will help with the immediate challenges while giving businesses the space to understand the changes they need to make to adapt to these new tougher, trading realities.”
Mr Ewing previously wrote to the UK Government to request the establishment of a joint ministerial taskforce. The taskforce that has been set up is UK Government led and will be regularly attended by Mr Ewing, and representatives from the Scottish seafood sector.
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