Scottish seafood exporters have called for more details after Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared to promise a £23m compensation fund for businesses affected by customs chaos following the end of the Brexit transition period.
The Prime Minister’s pledge came on a day of protest as more than 20 lorries, representing angry seafood exporters, staged a go-slow protest in Whitehall. The protest went off peacefully although the Metropolitan Police said 14 people, all either drivers or passengers, have been reported for Covid-related offences.
Boris Johnson said: “Where business, through no fault of their own, have experienced bureaucratic delays, difficulties getting their goods through and when there is a genuine, willing buyer on the other side of the Channel, and they’ve had a problem, then there’s a £23m compensation fund that we’ve set up and we’ll make sure that they get help.”
James Withers, Chief Executive of trade body Scotland Food and Drink, commented on Twitter: “This is a bit more helpful. Detail on Brexit compensation will be critical.”
The Prime Minister’s choice of words suggests that those claiming compensation will need to provide proof of an avoidable loss.
In a statement released later today, Scotland Food and Drink said: “Compensation is now critical. However, that will only buy a little time. We desperately need to press pause on the new bureaucratic checks on exports. We need time to get systems properly built as they keep falling down – as happened again over the weekend.
“The UK Government has already paused checks on EU imports until July 2021 and we need the same for goods going in the opposite direction, into the EU. That requires immediate dialogue with the European Commission.
“All our warnings that systems weren’t ready have sadly proven true … action now is critical to try and rescue a desperate situation for many.”
Meanwhile, Seafood Scotland and the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) have called for derogation of the export regulations to suspend the requirements that came into effect on 1 January.
Tavish Scott, Chief Executive of SSPO said: “We are nearly halfway through January and problems are still entrenched in the exporting process. A derogation to fix problems, clarify the administrative anomalies and get systems and staff working seamlessly seems to be a pragmatic and much needed solution.
“Salmon farmers are experiencing a variety of issues getting fish to market in good time. We are working hard with governments in the UK and Scotland as well as all the key bodies to resolve the problems effectively and as quickly as possible. Companies are indicating some tentative signs of progress.
“However, we are very mindful that every day that supplies of Scottish salmon are delayed or compromised the valuable trading relationships Scotland has across European markets are vulnerable to competition. The Scottish premium is highly prized but, once lost, will be hard to recover.”