SSPO and Fisheries Secretary call for cross-border government taskforce to deal with Brexit export delays

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Salmon trade group and Fergus Ewing call for expert working group tackle ongoing trade challenges.

Scottish salmon producers have called for the creation of a cross-border taskforce formed of experts and businesses to iron out the export problems experienced by seafood businesses this year, the SSPO writes in a press release.

SSPO CEO Tavish Scott said that he has taken the idea of an expert working group to Cabinet ministers in both administrations.

Red tape

Since the introduction of new checks, rules and bureaucratic regulations at the start of year, brought about by the end of the Brexit transition period, seafood exporters have had to endure delays, cancelled orders and lost customers.

Scott said that the situation has improved over the last week but there are still “serious issues which are causing problems”, mostly linked to the huge amounts of new paperwork that is needed to export seafood to the EU.

He added that there was a clear need to get experts from Scotland and the UK together to work through the outstanding issues to deliver an efficient and speedy seafood export system to the EU.

“The SSPO propose that along with Scottish and UK government ministers, senior officials, hauliers and agencies responsible for administering the new regulations, including Food Standards Scotland, should be involved,” he said.

“A huge amount of work has been put in behind the scenes in trying to sort the paperwork problems our sector has been coping with since January 1 but there are still big issues that need to be resolved.

“Problems are not insurmountable”
“Our customers in Europe need to know they can rely on our salmon arriving on time and, at the moment, that we cannot always guarantee that. We need to sort these problems out and the best way is not to apportion blame but to get all the experts round the table – from Scotland and the UK – to work out what really needs to be done.”

“That is why we have called for a joint, cross-border task force to be established. These problems are not insurmountable but we need to work together as a matter of urgency to get them sorted,” explained Scott.

For illustration. Boulogne Sur Mer. PHOTO: Pure Salmon

Show ‘leniancy’
It follows an appeal by the French Fish Merchants Union in Boulogne for authorities to show ‘leniancy’ towards British seafood exporters. A statement issued by Mareyage Boulonnais said:

“It seems such a shame to damage a lengthy historic relationship for the sake of red tape and we need as much help as possible during an already difficult time as it is.”

They added: “The industry can adapt fairly quickly. It needs a little time.”

Critical
Responding to the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation’s (SSPO) call for a joint Ministerial Taskforce, Fisheries Secretary Fergus Ewing that he welcomed the call to tackle the issue “head-on”.

Fergus Ewing in parliament. PHOTO: Scottish Parliament

“Three weeks have already gone by so it is critical this taskforce gets to work as quickly as possible. There are short term issues that need solved and businesses need support immediately if they are to keep trading. The taskforce needs to collaborate on solutions to the barriers blocking trade with the EU and streamlining the extensive processes and bureaucracy in place since the end of the EU Exit Transition Period,” said Ewing.

“I fully support this call and have asked the Welsh and Northern Irish if they wish to join it too – their businesses are also experiencing problems. I raised this during the 4 nations’ fisheries Ministers meeting yesterday and have also written to the UK Government to seek agreement on a taskforce,” he added.