Tory ministers faced backlash tonight after blaming the EU for a “devastating” ban on UK shellfish exports due to Brexit.
Seafood companies have warned of a “crisis” since Jan. 1 with a business in Bridlington, Baron Shellfish, shutting down after 40 years.
Sam Baron, who took over the business from his father, told HullLive Boris Johnson had not done enough. He said dealing with new documents and declarations was “like playing Russian roulette with five balls in your gun.”
Yet the Conservative Environment Secretary today accused the EU of moving the goalposts – and wrongly enforcing the law.
One of the key issues for the industry is a total ban on sending certain types of shellfish from ‘class B’ waters around the UK to the EU.
George Eustice said the EU had promised such a ban would not apply in September 2019 – only to impose it after Brexit came into effect.
Waters around Wales and southwest England are affected, with exports of mussels, oysters, clams and cockles all affected.
Senior Conservative Eustice said the EU had “changed its position” and that there was “no legal justification for a ban on this trade”.
“We believe that the EU has simply made a mistake in interpreting the law,” he told the House of Commons.
“We don’t think the ban they put in place is at all justified and in fact it represents a complete turnaround from anything they have told us to date.”
Mr Eustice added: “Ending this traditional and valuable trade is unacceptable and I realize that it is a devastating blow to the businesses that depend on this trade.”
But SNP MP Deidre Brock said the problems for exporters went far beyond the specific ban – with new documents hurting businesses.
“Forty years of building good customer bases in Europe have been swept away in a month by the incompetence of this government,” she told Parliament.
“The government has blamed companies for not doing the right papers, said it was start-up problems, or blamed the Dutch, French or any other big boy who could have done it and s’ escape.
“Will the government accept their fault and blame – it is because they made Brexit ab ***** ks.”
Labor Shadow Environment Minister Stephanie Peacock said “many fleets are unable to sell their catches and exporters unable to ship and trade.”
She added: “A multi-million pound industry came to a halt overnight. Jobs and communities are at risk. Unless this situation is resolved, the UK shellfish industry will not survive.
She continued, “Whoever is to blame, the point is that shellfish farmers and fishermen are not in a position to export their most valuable product to their most important market.