A pioneering exporter who sold lobsters to Europe from the Yorkshire coast has been forced to wind up his 40-year-old family business – because of Brexit red tape.
Sam Baron, who worked alongside his late father to set up Baron Shellfish in Bridlington, said he had to let his "business head overrule his heart".
It's believed the firm, the first lobster tank business in Europe’s largest shellfish port, is the first big exporter to have announced its closure.
Baron, 58, who had worked in the fishing industry since he was a schoolboy, cited extra costs and paperwork associated with Brexit as a reason he was closing down.
New regulations came into force on 1 January regarding live exports to the EU, with a requirement for extra checks and documentation.
He was quoted in The Guardian as saying: "It is all Brexit-related – the extra costs, extra paperwork and the extra gamble – and it is down to the government and the EU.
"Every time you send out transport with lobster, it is like playing Russian roulette with five bullets in your gun.”
Making the closure announcement, he said the company had been able to take "advantage of the common market, increasing business by selling direct to customers" while Britain had been in the EU.
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"This meant we could competitively buy from our fellow merchants at Bridlington, making us more of a dispatch centre to the EU."
Over the years, the business grew alongside Bridlington Harbour, which became the biggest shellfish port in the UK, and sold catch from UK waters to mainland Europe.
While inside the common market, the company sold to countries including Spain, Belgium and Italy.
He added: “There is an element of disruption going on and I am currently talking to business leaders and fishermen to establish whether this is short-term disruption or if it is a longer term problem."
It comes as environment secretary George Eustice said Brussels’ decision to place barriers on live UK shellfish exports is “indefensible”.
Eustice insisted there is “no legal barrier” to prevent the trade, and has called on the European Commission to abide by existing regulations.
The introduction of new checks and paperwork since the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December has caused disruption to exports of fresh fish and seafood to the EU.
Producers have expressed frustration at the lack of government action, while last month seafood hauliers protested against the Brexit fishing deal by stacking lorries in central London.
Eustice said the Commission changed its position last week, and that prior to that “they had been clear that this was a trade that could continue”.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Tuesday: “We wrote to the Commissioner yesterday, we have been in dialogue with them.
“The truth is there is no legal barrier to this trade continuing, both on animal health grounds and on public health grounds – there is legal provision within existing EU regulations to allow such trade to continue from the UK.
“We are just asking the EU to abide by their existing regulations and not to seek to change them.
“They did change their position just last week – prior to that they had been clear that this was a trade that could continue – so we want to work to understand why they are proposing a change at this stage.”
He said the UK is hoping it can resolve the issue with the EU and “get them to abide by their own regulations”.
French MEP Pierre Karleskind, who chairs the European Parliament’s committee on fisheries, told Today that Brexit was to blame for the issues but said they do not make sense.
“I have no problem with the fact that we have to find this solution.
“I am not satisfied so far with this question and the fact is that the UK waters did not become dirty on 31 December at midnight, so this really doesn’t make any sense.
“Except that we have to find a way to be sure in the long term we will have the insurance that what we import from the UK does satisfy the high standards of quality and of sanitary quality for our consumer.”
The government’s £23 million compensation scheme for the fishing industry is now open.
The UK-wide seafood disruption support scheme will help businesses which suffered a loss due to export problems in January, providing up to £100,000 per firm.
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