Boris Johnson ‘sacrificed fishing industry’ says June Mummery
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And Parliament’s Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has been told a combination of Britain’s departure from the bloc and the COVID-19 pandemic has created a “perfect storm” for the industry. The deal which Mr Johnson signed off on in December has left fishermen frustrated because it means EU fishermen will retain access to UK waters for at least five years – and in all likelihood, much longer than that. MPs were told the situation was so bad, some companies were considering relocating parts of their operation to the EU in a bid to by-pass costs and bureaucracy, with Brexit changes likely to hit profits by as much as £500,000 per year.
ou just could not have written it any worse if you had wanted to for the industry
Some businesses have said they are currently required to provide more than 70 pages of paperwork to transport one lorry of fish into the bloc.
Sarah Horsfall, co-chief executive of the Shellfish Association of Great Britain, told the committee: “You just could not have written it any worse if you had wanted to for the industry.”
Martyn Youell, a senior manager at south-west England fishing company Waterdance, added: “Sadly, there are some extreme forces operating on the supply chain and we probably will see some forced consolidation or business failure and that is impacting the fishing industry.
“We are struggling to find markets for some of the products we previously had very good markets for through small-scale exporters.
“Those at the more medium size, their costs have increased dramatically.”
Mr Youell suggested some companies were contemplating drastic measures in a bid to stop themselves going under.
He explained: “The exporters we deal with are seriously considering relocating part of their processing business to the EU because of the difficulties we face at the moment.
“It cannot have been the aspiration of Brexit, with fishing as the totemic issue and which a lot of people voted upon, to actually lose jobs within fishing and the supply chain, including boats landing overseas because the paperwork is easier.
“We are at serious risk of doing the very opposite.”
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Mr Youell also objected to the Government’s characterisation of the difficulties as “teething problems”.
He said: “Whilst some things have settled down, some obvious issues, we feel that we remain with at least 80 percent of the trading difficulties that have been encountered and are in existence today.
“They are not teething problems for us.”
Donna Fordyce, chief executive at Seafood Scotland, said if smaller companies had to cease trading with Europe due to rising costs – with increases predicted to be between £250,000 to £500,000 per year for exporters – then it could spell be their “demise”.
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Additional customs and paperwork delays meant it was currently taking up to 39 hours to get products to market – up from 22 prior to the Brexit deal coming into effect in January.
Ms Fordyce warned the UK risked being usurped by competitors as a result of the “reputational” damage being done to the country’s fresh products.
She added: “There are other countries waiting to take up these contracts – the Norwegians are all over the salmon. These will be long-term losses.”
The Prime Minister, who previously said his Brexit deal would be “very beneficial” in the medium to long term for fishermen, reportedly wants Britons to eat more of the fish caught domestically, with most currently exported.
In a video uploaded to media channel Unlocked_UK last week, June Mummery, owner of Renaissance of the East Anglian Fisheries (REAF), told Ben Habib, like her a former Brexit Party MEP, about her frustration with the deal – and with Mr Johnson.
She said: “The deal is still there and the deal is a disaster.
“The industry can’t express to anyone, how bad it is, and the mood in the industry is still deflated.
“We’re trying to get over the shock of the deal. But it’s not just the deal, it’s the broken promises and the lies that we were told – that takes time to recover from.”
She explained: “We were promised that we would take that full control of our waters and the resource and to have that taken away, taking our aspirations and our opportunities away from us, was a big blow.
“In fact, that took me longer to get over these, these lies and deceit of our government.
“Lots of people say, ‘well, June, you shouldn’t have trusted Boris’.
“Well yes I did trust Boris Johnson, he came to my hometown of Lowestoft, I had a meeting with him back in 2016, and he promised us that he would take back control. So, we’re getting over that.”
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