Streamlining export processes, fixing IT systems and resolving trade issues with the EU must be urgent priorities for a new UK Government led seafood export taskforce, according to Scotland’s Fisheries Secretary, Fergus Ewing.
He was speaking ahead of the first meeting of the Scottish Seafood Export Taskforce today. The Taskforce brings together politicians and officials from the UK and Scottish governments, together with industry representatives, with the aim of resolving the sector’s difficulties in the wake of the end of the Brexit transition period and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Ewing said the taskforce’s focus must be on:
• ensuring a more consistent approach and understanding of customs arrangements, including providing clarity to EU vessels landing in the UK;
• simplifying the system used for Export Health Certificates – to make it easier for businesses and certifiers to make changes to their paperwork; and
• aligning HMRC and DEFRA systems to cut down on errors and make them more user-friendly.
He also expressed his disappointment that several leading people “who are directly involved in the sector and have first-hand experience of handling and dealing with the problems” have not been included in the taskforce.
Ewing said: “The taskforce must not be a talking shop, it needs to provide urgent solutions and I will continue to fight to make things better for our fishermen and wider seafood sector. These are not just ‘teething problems’ this is an entirely new way of working that is a direct consequence of the way the UK Government handled Brexit and we must look at ways to minimise these impacts. This is time critical and the taskforce must look at how we can remove barriers to trade, resolve some of the export issues businesses have faced with scallops and cockles, mussels and oysters, and streamline processes. If it is to be effective, it will need the full engagement of UK departments whose systems and processes are the source of much of the frustration encountered by fishermen and processors in all parts of the UK.”
Both the Scottish government and UK government have already announced separate schemes to help seafood businesses – especially smaller operators – deal with the disruption to the sector.