EU accused at Westminster of lawlessness over ban on UK shellfish exports

Nick Lester, PA Political Staff
·2-min read

Brussels has been accused in Parliament of “lawlessness” in placing barriers on live UK shellfish exports.

Tory former cabinet minister Lord Lilley branded the imposition of restrictions “a flagrant abuse” and another example of the EU seeking to “punish” the UK for Brexit.

The Conservative peer made his criticism after the Government said the bloc had changed its position on the trade and the move to halt it was “unacceptable”.

The shellfish affected include mussels, oysters, clams and cockles.

The introduction of new checks and paperwork since the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31 has caused disruption to exports of fresh fish and seafood to the EU to the frustration and anger of producers.

Hitting out in Parliament at the shellfish export ban, Lord Lilley, a prominent Brexit supporter, said: “Is not this and other measures taken recently by the EU to punish the UK for leaving its jurisdiction a flagrant abuse not only of the EU’s own laws but of several international laws?”

Fishing boats lie in the waters of the River Wyre at Fleetwood in Lancashire (Peter Byrne/PA)
Fishing boats lie in the waters of the River Wyre at Fleetwood in Lancashire (Peter Byrne/PA)

He added: “I hope the minister will make this lawlessness apparent to this House, which always maintains the importance of upholding international law.”

Responding, environment minister Lord Gardiner of Kimble said the secretary of state George Eustice had written to the EU commissioner for health and food safety Stella Kyriakides.

The Tory frontbencher said: “We wish to meet her and her officials, because we simply do not understand the legal interpretation of what has come out of the Commission very recently, which is entirely contrary to what we had been told previously.”

But Labour peer Lord Knight of Weymouth said the ban was only the latest in a series of crises to hit the fishing industry, including “the wave of red tape and export chaos caused by Brexit”.

He said: “These are not teething troubles.

“When will the Government get serious about rescuing this vital sector that is fast going out of business?”

Lord Gardiner said: “It is clear that the fishing and shellfish industries are going through difficulties partly because of a reduction in demand due to Covid and partly because of issues that we need to resolve.

“However, in the long term this is a very important part of our food supply and we will support it.”