Scotland’s fish price crash and export problems due to post-Brexit bureaucracy

Post-Brexit bureaucracy is causing some UK exports to the EU to halt, industry bodies have warned, as new rules that went into effect on the New Year begin to tighten.

A fish exporter said on Monday that prices were “plummeting” in the Scottish port of Peterhead, with reports that shellfish prices fell as much as 80% due to “export blockages”.

This situation occurs after the warning of the producer associations that “dozens of fish trucks have not been able to leave Scotland in time since the Brexit rules came into force.”

It is feared that UK exports to the mainland could be seriously delayed as the French authorities step up enforcement of the new trade rules.

Meanwhile, significant food supply problems have also been reported in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland due to new trade rules.

The trade agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom after the Brexit crisis, reached on Christmas Eve, guaranteed mutual access to markets without tariffs or quotas. But the UK’s exit from EU trade structures has brought with it a plethora of other hurdles, involving new IT systems, customs declarations and regulatory controls.

The door to the EU is now closed

Scottish fish exports, which are especially dependent on smooth deliveries to the mainland, appear to be among the hardest hit by the new paperwork requirements. IT problems in France have also caused delays.

James Withers, Managing Director of Scotland Food & Drink, said on Sunday they have received many messages from “food exporters who are finding the door to the EU is now closed.” “A multi-billion dollar trading system is being tested for the first time, in real time. And it is going bad,” he wrote on Twitter.

Alistair Carmichael, a Liberal Democrat MP for Orkney and Shetland Islands, challenged the government in Parliament on Monday over losses suffered by seafood exporters. He cited one exporter as saying that a single shipment needed “17 attachments” and that it had lost £ 50,000 (€ 55,600) on a shipment it failed to export.

UK Chancellor (finance minister) Rishi Sunak responded that the government was working to improve processes over time, it had invested “an enormous amount” in information technology systems and in providing business support.

Scotland’s major food and drink agencies appealed to the UK government for help on Friday as exports were in dire trouble. Scotland Food & Drink and Seafood Scotland teamed up with the Scottish Salmon Producers Organization (SSPO) in calling for a “lighter” approach to help bring exports to European markets.

“The confusion over paperwork, necessary additional documentation and computer problems have contributed to the delays and backlogs,” they said.

Trade bodies added that the post-Brexit trade deal, reached “just a week before the new regulations came into effect, did not give companies time to prepare for the huge changes needed to bring products to the continent.”

‘Perfect Storm’ Warning

Last week another body of the fishing industry, Seafood Scotland warned of a “perfect storm” for exporters by the new Brexit rules, the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of the French border before Christmas by the new variant of the coronavirus discovered in the United Kingdom.

This, he said, had unleashed multiple layers of administrative problems, resulting in queues, rejections at the border and total confusion. “

Trade bodies said they had appealed to the British government for a “six-month adaptation period” to allow adjustment to the new rules, but that January 1 had instead brought a “steep cliff”. “We warned that this would bring problems, but our requests for a grace period were ignored,” said James Withers of Scotland Food & Drink’s.

Fishing communities in other parts of the UK have also complained of “major complications”. A open letter to the Lyme Bay Samways Parliament he listed various bureaucratic issues, including the need to post a veterinarian to sign the goods.

There have been calls from UK carriers for the French authorities to take a pragmatic approach, amid fears that the English Channel crossings could suffer further delays as controls tighten.

Shane Brennan, Chief Executive of the Cold Chain Federation, told BBC Radio Kent on Monday that he was “deeply concerned about how things are going to be built over the course of this week. We are in the hands of the French authorities here. … our prayer is that they find ways to help us make this work, “he added.

Last week, the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organizations (NFO) said there was “growing concern about the export of fish to Europe, due to obstacles in Calais and Boulogne.” He cited the problems already cited in relation to customs clearance systems, unfamiliarity with the procedures and “a delaying response to resolve the problems in France.”

The Road Transport Association (RHA) has warned that the pre-Christmas traffic jams in the south of England are repeating, caused by restrictions due to the coronavirus, as the volume of traffic – at the beginning of January only on 25 % of normal levels – increases.

“The chaos has begun. Organizing even the simplest cargo to Europe has become a near impossible task due to the mountain of Tory bureaucracy that was brought in on January 1,” Dover John-based trucking company tweeted on Friday. Shirley Ltd.

The government warns of a “significant disturbance”

British Cabinet Minister Michael Gove said on Friday that he expected there would be “a significant additional disturbance” at the country’s borders in the coming weeks due to customs changes forced by Brexit.

“So far the disturbance on the border has not been very deep but it is the case that in the coming weeks we expect there to be a significant additional disruption, particularly on the Dover-Calais route,” he said.

Gove also said it was the government’s responsibility to make sure the matter is as prepared as possible, AP reported.

“Carriers and traders have already done a lot, but we have to redouble our efforts to communicate the precise paperwork that is required to ensure that trade can flow freely,” the minister added.

The government’s advice on EU trade requirements, up to 159 double pages, was updated on New Year’s Eve, just hours before the new rules went into effect.

“There will be no non-tariff barriers to trade,” Boris Johnson said on Christmas Eve, the day the new post-Brexit deal between the EU and the UK was announced.

The events of early January have further cast doubt on not only that statement, but also the prime minister’s promise that the new trade agreement “will, in any case, allow our companies and our exporters to do even more business with our friends. Europeans “.

New rules affect supplies from the Irish Sea

Dozens of large retailers are reportedly scrutinizing supplies to the Republic of Ireland, due to the imposition of new import duties or taxes. The trade agreement between the EU and the UK removes them, but goods exported from the EU to the UK are subject to tariffs if they are later re-exported by shipping to Ireland.

Supply chain problems are said to have been, at least in part, behind last week’s decision by ferry company Stena Line to cut a dozen routes to the Irish Sea.

Northern Ireland has been hit particularly hard by falling supplies, with difficulties restocking supermarket shelves. Although it is part of the UK, the territory is still subject to EU trade rules under the divorce agreement to maintain an open land border with the Republic of Ireland. The result is increased bureaucracy and border controls on goods shipped from Britain.

The Road Transport Association has warned that Northern Ireland’s supply chain is “on the verge of collapse”, with trucks stuck in Britain or returning empty. He has asked the government for urgent financial help and a transition period for the new rules.

“Even some of the large supermarkets have not been prepared for the additional paperwork … Furthermore, many companies are aware of the additional requirements and have made the decision to stop supplying Northern Ireland in the short term until all issues are resolved. initial problems, “said RHA policy director for Northern Ireland, John Martin.

Aodhán Connolly, Director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, warned on New Years that, despite the benefits of the new EU-UK trade agreement of “zero tariff, zero quota”, it did not eliminate the need for new customs formalities in the Sea of ​​ireland.

“The ATT (Trade and Cooperation Agreement) does not contain any measures to reduce paperwork, checks and controls at the Irish Sea border, although border management could be made easier with increased customs cooperation,” he said .

“But even the prospect of future cooperation is hardly reassuring for companies shipping or bringing goods to Northern Ireland.”