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Scottish Fishing Communities: EU Trade

Volume 687: debated on Thursday 21 January 2021

What assessment his Department has made of the effect of the UK-EU trade and co-operation agreement on Scottish fishing communities. (911164)

What assessment his Department has made of the effect of the UK-EU trade and co-operation agreement on Scottish fishing communities. (911170)

The trade and co-operation agreement establishes tariff-free trade on fisheries exports to the EU and also establishes a five-and-a-half-year multiannual agreement on access and sharing arrangements for quota. Under the agreement, there are year-on-year transfers of fishing opportunities from EU fleets to the UK fleet. Overall, the EU relinquished 25% of the quota it had previously been allowed to catch in UK waters. There are gains, both in the North sea and in the west of Scotland.

Scotland’s high-quality seafood producers are warning that they are going out of business. They cannot have their products sitting in lorry parks in Kent waiting for customs clearance. Those products have to reach market fresh. What are the Government doing to change procedures and technology to ensure an entire industry is not destroyed? Will there be ongoing compensation offered to businesses until this is sorted, or was that offer a one-off? If the Minister could offer a slightly fuller response this time, that would be appreciated.

As I explained earlier, we have announced a £23 million fund to help exporters who struggled with the paperwork in the initial weeks. We have also been working daily with the fishing sector to tackle and iron out any particular issues it has encountered. Twice a week we hold long stakeholder calls with all businesses concerned. I have had personal conversations with organisations such as DFDS, which leads on distribution. We have given them all the support we can to help them iron out the teething issues they have been having.

This Government have followed up their sell-out of Scotland’s fishing communities with this £23 million insult. The industry is losing more than four times that every day. It is losing customers with it. And this was the one industry, we were told, that would benefit from Brexit. Why will the Government not act now, act quickly, eat some humble pie and re-establish barrier-free rapid access to the European market for this industry, so it can finally supply its customers again?

With the support we have given industry to iron out some of the issues it has been having, the flow of goods is now continuing. DFDS in particular has been very successful at transporting salmon to the European Union. This week, it resumed groupage systems to take smaller consignments. We know there are between 30 to 50 lorries of fish making their way to Boulogne each and every day.