Boris Johnson has announced that £23 million will be made available to compensate seafood exporters for lost trade caused by Brexit red tape.
The Prime Minister let slip details of the package during an interview earlier this week, and the government officially confirmed the figure yesterday.
Exporters will be able to apply for up to £100,000 in compensation, but must “evidence a genuine loss in exporting fish and shellfish to the EU”.
Claims must also prove that losses were “no fault of their own”, meaning that incorrectly filled-in or unsigned paperwork may not qualify.
The government have also pledged to give increased support to businesses as they tackle significant changes in the exportation process.
Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Steve Barclay said: “This further £23m package of support will help our hardworking fishing sector navigate the challenges of the next few months.
“It is vital that no community nor region within our United Kingdom is left behind as we continue to support British jobs and build back better from the coronavirus pandemic.”
Post-Brexit Border Rules
Having left the EU’s customs union and the single market, exports must now go through added customs and veterinary checks before they can leave the UK.
Fishing firms say that increased paperwork burdens have put the industry in a critical condition, with huge delays causing consignments to perish.
Just last week a lorry carrying £50,000 of live shellfish was held up for 30 hours at the border due to an anomaly in the documentation.
Seafood hauliers staged a protest in London on Monday in reaction to the new rules, warning that urgent action was needed to keep their businesses afloat.
Companies from both Scotland and Devon drove their lorries through Westminster and parked metres from Downing Street, with some displaying slogans including “Brexit carnage” and “Incompetent government destroying shellfish industry”.
“Death by a thousand cuts”
Beshlie Pool, Executive Officer of South Devon and Channel Shellfishermen described the fishing industry’s situation as “death by a thousand cuts”.
She told Buzz News: “There are problems with every part of the system, those problems are small and probably fixable but no one is taking control of the whole process so those problems are becoming very significant, very quickly.
“There are elements of UK fishing who are incandescent with rage for being ignored, being side-lined and being fobbed-off.
“We are being told that our concerns are fine and that it will all be okay and then we get to the crunch point and it’s not okay.
“Even on the news last night we hear our Ministers describing it as a ‘teething problem’ and even our Prime Minister blaming the delays on people not being able to fill in paperwork properly.”
Some shellfish exports have faced a staggering 48-hour delay, which can render a whole lorry full of product dead.
Miss Pool said: “We have to present paperwork that can take up to two days to be produced, but you can only move live crab for example for 36 hours before it becomes dead crab.
“There are other huge delays in fishing at the moment, but in shellfish we essentially have a 48-hour delay which means we cant do our jobs.
“We are looking at losing up to £80,000 per lorry if our product is rendered dead, it is that significant.
“In crab especially, fishermen land their catch, and they get paid after their catch has sold, so they don’t get paid for about two weeks.
“If that consignment dies or we are ordered to destroy our product at our own expense because the paperwork is wrong, then those fishermen don’t get anything.”
Miss Pool added: “Because parts of the process are run by different organisations we are facing so many different problems – what we really need is someone from a government department or even a minister to take charge and streamline that whole process into something that actually works.”
“The demonstration was to just highlight the fact that people have been raising these issues for four years, and we are now at the point were people are losing money.”
Despite the government’s package offering a potential pay-out of £100,000, Miss Pool stated that the cost of the new system extends way beyond that figure.
“One of our businesses is looking at an additional cost of £750,000 a year just on their paperwork alone, they can’t take that, the guys on the continent aren’t going to start paying more for the crab just because we need to fill in paperwork now.
“Fishing was used as the poster-boy for Brexit, there are a lot of really grumpy people that are not going to back down from this because they do feel lied to and they do feel betrayed.
“The government made us promises and they are not going to get away with not keeping them.”
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