THE government could be ready to back Grimsby’s bid for free port status after Brexit – provided the right conditions are in place.
This was the outcome of a series of meetings last week between the Seafood Grimsby and Humber organisation and senior MPs, including fisheries minister George Eustice, in Westminster.
Also present was Bill Showalter, CEO for Young’s Seafood, and a representative from Seachill, two of Grimsby’s largest seafood producers.
The meetings were brokered by Martin Vickers, MP for Grimsby’s neighbouring constituency of Cleethorpes, amid fears the Humber region in general could be hit by delays and unnecessary bureaucracy after Brexit.
There are also worries about possible labour shortages, especially if many of the east Europeans who work in Grimsby’s seafood factories decide to return home.
First, the delegation met MP Mark Prisk, who is in contact with the Nordic countries (Iceland, Norway and the Faroe Islands) which are keen to secure a free trade deal with the UK after Brexit.
These three countries also supply most of Grimsby’s seafood processing raw materials.
Then they had talks with Rishi Sunak, MP for Richmond in North Yorkshire, who is an advocate of free ports.
Finally, they met the minister, who said he was fully aware of Grimsby’s situation and the problems it might face.
Vickers told Fish Update: ‘Despite one or two critical comments, I believe there is a lot of mileage in the free port idea and the government is very supportive.
‘I know that the business minister, Liam Fox, is keen on the suggestion, although there is nothing we can do on this until we formally leave the EU.
‘The industry expressed its concerns to us, but I am confident that we will have the right arrangements in place with the likes of Norway and Iceland the day after Brexit to ensure that there is no interruption to fish supply.’
Picture: Fisheries minister George Eustice