Brexit fishing fury: Boris accused of export stitch-up – Scottish salmon fishermen hit out

Blockade: Expert discusses impact on Scottish salmon industry

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The Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) is furious and has claimed figures from the Treasury underestimated exports by much as 97 percent, meaning it is “impossible” to judge the impact of Brexit. The industry body, which represents all of Scotland’s salmon producers, told Westminster’s Scottish Affairs Committee it believes more salmon had been exported in January compared to a year earlier. SSPO director of strategic engagement Hamish MacDonnell told MPs on the committee the numbers from HMRC were “not just wrong, they were very, very wrong”.

He said: “It is really difficult for you as a committee, or anybody else, to really assess the impact of Brexit when we don’t have a proper baseline on the stats.

“We sent about 5,000 tonnes of salmon to Europe in January – the Eurostat system, which records how much Scottish salmon went into the EU, records about 4,700 tonnes going in.

“The HMRC figures say we only sent 80 tonnes – which is only three percent of the amount that actually went there.”

Mr MacDonnell added he was uncertain how this error has been made. Discussions with HMRC are ongoing.

Scotland Office minister David Duguid and government official Nick Leake also came under fire over the discrepancies on numbers for Scottish salmon exports to the EU in January.

Both appeared on another panel of the Scottish Affairs Committee on Thursday.

Committee chairman Pete Wishart asked Mr Duguid if he would be “rushing off to your colleagues in the Treasury to try and ensure this is going to get resolved”.

The Scotland Office minister said he become aware of the issue at the same time as the SSPO and an investigation is ongoing with HMRC.

Mr Leake insisted the “provisional figures” were always published which were subject to revision.

He added the SSPO had raised a “trade challenge” which now leads to an investigation in an attempt to resolve the matter.

The Government official said: “I do accept that in this case this is a significant revision that would need to be made.

“But this is a standard process so I’m fairly confident that the correct figures will appear when the final figures are announced.”

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Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross, who also sits on the Scottish Affairs Committee, described the claim from the SSPO as “incredible”.

He added: “I think it’s a massive bourach. The whole thing is a mess.”

The UK completed its full departure from the EU at the end of last year following months of negotiations with the EU on a post-Brexit trade deal.

But the seafood sector has been left furious with the agreement in place, with new post-Brexit rules coming into force with red tape on January 1 causing delays for many who usually export to Europe.

On January 6, the Scottish salmon sector called on the UK Government to help resolve the delays to EU exports which had already started causing significant problems for the sector.

The SSPO said at the time: “Dozens of lorry loads of fish have failed to leave Scotland on time since the full Brexit regulations came into force at the start of this year.

“Confusion over paperwork, the extra documentation needed and IT problems have all contributed to delays and hold-ups.

“The leaders of all of Scotland’s main food and drink bodies – including Scotland Food and Drink (SF&D), the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) and Seafood Scotland (SS) – wrote to the Prime Minister in November appealing for a gradual implementation period for the new rules, but without success.

“They now believe the Brexit deal, which was agreed by the UK and the EU on Christmas Eve: just a week before the new regulations came into effect, gave businesses no time to prepare for the huge changes necessary to get produce to the continent.”

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