Fish and chips to take a battering in latest round of Russian sanctions

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Britain's fish and chip shops - PHIL NOBLE
Britain's fish and chip shops - PHIL NOBLE

Ministers are preparing to hit Russian seafood imports with punitive trade tariffs in a move that could cripple Britain’s fish and chips shops.

Government sources said there is a “clear intention” to include Russian whitefish exports, including cod and haddock, in an upcoming wave of sanctions against Moscow.

“It is included on a list of Russian products we’ve said we intend to introduce tariffs on,” a government source told The Telegraph on Thursday.

“There are no timescales on when we intend to introduce the tariffs but we’ve made it very clear we intend to introduce them.”

Whitefish was originally amongst the Russian exports earmarked to be slapped with a 35 per cent tariff by the UK in March in response to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, but was eventually left out.

British sources denied Whitehall was working alongside the EU to implement similar sanctions as part of the bloc's next package of measures. A European ban on Russian caviar, introduced by Brussels and London, is set to come into force at the end of this month.

The West is looking to ramp up the pressure on Moscow as the Russian army intensifies its efforts to take the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine.

Kyiv said on Thursday that the fighting there had reached “maximum intensity”.

"Enemy forces are storming the positions of our troops simultaneously in several directions.” said Ganna Malyar, Ukraine's deputy defence minister. “We have an extremely difficult and long stage of fighting ahead of us."

Some of the worst fighting has been in Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, which stand on the crucial route to Ukraine's eastern administrative centre in Kramatorsk. Three people died there due to Russian attacks, said Sergiy Gaiday, Luhansk regional governor, on Thursday, and "heavy" bombardments did extensive damage to civilian infrastructure.

In Britain, the whitefish sanctions have sparked concerns amongst fish and chip shop owners, who are already facing a cost of living crisis. Britain imports around 30 per cent of its whitefish from Russia, which controls around 45 per cent of the global market.

A third of takeaways fear closure

A third of the takeaways now fear they could be forced to close if shortages of essential ingredients such as cod, haddock and sunflower oil - half of which was imported from Ukraine before the Russian naval blockade - are not addressed by ministers.

Andrew Crook, the president of the National Federation of Fish Friers, said the new tariffs would “pile more pressure on an industry that is already feeling the full force of inflationary costs.

“If they feel this is the best way to apply pressure on Putin then we have to go with it,” he added.

“We don’t expect special treatment but I hope the Government does start to listen to the calls from the whole of the hospitality industry for a long term strategy for the sector and part of that has to be a reduction in VAT.”

Westminster insiders accept that the incoming sanctions would “hit us hard”, but insist they are “looking at measures to mitigate their substantial reliance on Ukrainian sunflower oil”.

Fish and chip shops 'totemic part of British life'

Andrew Bridgen, the Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire, said he supports the “necessary” sanctions against Russia but warned fish and chip shops would “bear the brunt” in terms of rising prices and joined calls for VAT cut.

“It’s going to have a devastating effect on fish and chip shops. The sanctions will bring into focus the threats to the industry,” Mr Bridgen said.

“Fish and chip shops are a totemic part of British life, and if it becomes an expensive treat rather than a staple a large number of them will be out of business.”

It came as Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, warned that Russian meddling in the Western Balkans risked tipping the region back into war.

Moscow was exerting a “malign” influence in the former Yugoslavia, she said on Thursday on a visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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