Outrage over exports
Johnson agrees £23m fish deal amid London demo
Lorries arriving in Westminster
Boris Johnson today confirmed a £23 million financial compensation package for the fishing industry in an attempt to ease the tensions over the Brexit deal.
He said companies which have lost buyers “through no fault of their own” would be able to apply for payouts.
“When it’s not people’s fault, of course we’re going to compensate and help out and funds have been put in place to do that,” he said.
However, his agreement to provide support to those driven near to collapse was tainted by attempts to dismiss the issue as “teething problems” and due to “people not filling in the right forms”.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “We’ve been calling for financial compensation for our fishing industry since last week, so this is a welcome step forward from the UK Government and I am pleased they have listened to those affected.
One of the lorries on its way to London
“This situation has been devastating for our fishermen so I hope this money will be delivered as urgently as possible.
“We must now also see the Scottish Government step up to the plate to resolve issues we are seeing at Larkhall and accept any offer of support from the UK Government.
“Our fishermen want to see Scotland’s two governments working together in order to guarantee the industry a prosperous future.”
The compensation deal came after shellfish producers’ staged a protest in Westminster by parking about 20 lorries near Downing Street and the Houses of Parliament.
They were expressing their dismay and anger over difficulties exporting fish to the European Union since the UK left the trading bloc on 31 December.
Vehicles from various parts of the UK coastal areas emblazoned with slogans such as “Brexit Carnage” and “incompetent government destroying shellfish industry” drew police attention.
A spokesman for the Metropolitan police said: “Police are aware of a protest in Westminster relating to the UK fishing industry – an appropriate policing plan is in place.
“We would remind those involved that London remains in Tier 4 for Covid restrictions and anyone breaching the regulation will be reported.
“No arrests occurred, but a number of lorries have been stopped and 14 people, who were either drivers or passengers in those vehicles, have been reported [via FPN] for Covid-related offences.”
Scottish fishermen have been particularly hard hit following the introduction of catch certificates, health checks and customs declarations. Delays have been such that some have been forced to discard whole catches, and some say exports have shrunk to almost zero.
Over the weekend the Foreign secretary Dominic Raab also described the delays as “teething problems.”
He said he was “not convinced” the delays were because of the government’s trade deal with the EU and argued it will “create huge, sustainable opportunities” for the sector.
Today, fishing companies reacted angrily to the government’s position. A spokesperson from Eyemouth-based DR Collin & Son, which took part in the protest, said: “All the training is going to waste as the technology is outdated and cannot cope with the demands being placed on it – which in turn is resulting in no produce being able to leave the UK.”
Many fishing communities voted in favour of Brexit, but they believe the deal that has been struck has left them worse off.
James Withers: ‘compensation is now critical’ (pic: Terry Murden)
James Withers, chief executive of Scotland Food & Drink, said: “Anger amongst Scotland’s seafood exporters has been simmering for two weeks now as the door to their most important market has been slammed shut. Many now fear for their survival.
“That anger has been stoked by a number UK Ministers dismissing this crisis as ‘teething problems’ or, worse still, trying to make jokes about it.
“All our warnings that systems weren’t ready have sadly proven true and it is businesses now paying the heavy price for complacency and failure to act on our warnings.
“The Government’s own watchdog, the National Audit Office, gave the same warning that was not acted upon.”