Some British seafood businesses are filling out more than 70 pages of paperwork just to export one lorry of fish to the EU, MPs have been told, amid claims that fishermen are facing the “very opposite” of what was promised by Brexit.
With firms facing border delays, added costs and red tape under the trade deal signed with Brussels, industry experts warned that some were now considering relocating parts of their companies to the continent.
Martin Youell, a senior manager of fisheries at south west firm Waterdance Fishing, told the Commons environment and food committee that while some problems with EU exports had been resolved, 80 per cent of the difficulties still remained.
Separately, Sarah Horsfall, the chief executive of the Shellfish Association of Great Britain said that new paperwork requirements were “extremely excessive” and “unwieldy”, with some exporters facing costs of between £400 and £600 per consignment.
Mr Youell pointed to one company – Dorset-based fish merchant Samways – which had been required to complete 71 pages of paperwork, made up of various catch and export health certificates, as well as invoices, for one shipment made last month.
Urging ministers to work with Brussels to establish an electronic system to streamline the filing of paperwork, Mr Youell added: “unfortunately we’ve inherited a system, which at least for now is largely paper based, which is a massive problem.
“Digitalisation is massive and has got to be a priority. Some kind of shared system that we can all have confidence in has to be an aspiration for the Government.
“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.”
Donna Fordyce, chief executive of Seafood Scotland added that delays at customs meant that the two day delivery schedules from catch to market for many firms were no longer possible.
This is having a significant impact on the UK’s reputation and impacting confidence in UK fresh produce, risking many customers in Europe turning to rival competitors who are “waiting to take up these contracts.”
“The Norwegians are all over the salmon. These will be long-term losses,” she continued.
She added that 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 be their “demise”, given the reliance on the continental market.