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Brexit / Frustration as yet another Brexit ‘teething’ issue emerges

LOCAL seafood exporters have been caught up in yet another Brexit ‘teething’ issue after it emerged that live shellfish exports to the EU will be banned indefinitely.

The measure will affect oyster, clams, mussels and scallops – or live bivalve molluscs (LBMs) deemed to be unfit for human consumption without being purified. Crab and lobsters have not been barred from entering the EU.

Robert Williamson of Scalloway-based QA Fish said that since the beginning of the year he had been unable to export scallops to a new customer in France because of the ban.

That customer had now started buying scallops from Norway, a country that is also not in the EU but had managed to negotiate a more beneficial trade deal with the EU.

Ruth Henderson of Seafood Shetland said the islands’ farmed mussel production would not be affected, but that is because the EU had never been a market for local mussels.

She added however that the EU had always been regarded as a potential future market for the local industry, but that opportunity had now been “dashed”.

“It is very disappointing and another blow for businesses exporting seafood to the EU,” she said.

The British shellfish industry has said that this latest development is contrary to the information it had previously received from the UK government.

Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has now written to fishing minister Victoria Prentis demanding an urgent plan of action to negotiate an end to the ban, which risks severely harming scallop producers in his constituency.

“An indefinite ban on live shellfish exports would be catastrophic for isles scallop catches – I am calling for urgent answers and action from the fisheries minister,” he said.

“You cannot tell people there is no problem when reality is staring you in the face. DEFRA ministers must have known for some time that the shellfish export ban would continue and yet they left it to the European Commission to tell the industry – there is no excuse for giving false hope to exporters.

“This is yet another example of what fishermen and exporters have been saying for weeks – these are not “teething problems”, they are long-term structural issues. The Government must recognise that fact and take more serious action.”

Williamson added that a lot of shellfish businesses in England had specialised on exported to Europe. Businesses will be wiped out, he said.

“They call it teething problems, but it is more like removing all your teeth and leaving you with nothing to eat with,” he said.