Shellfish lorries park up near 10 Downing Street amid Brexit export issues

LaToya Harding
·Contributor
·4-min read
A lorry drives during a protest against post-Brexit bureaucracy that hinders exports to the European Union, as police officers in vans watch over the demonstration at the Parliament Square in London, Britain, January 18, 2021. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
A lorry drives during a protest against post-Brexit bureaucracy that hinders exports to the European Union, as police officers in vans watch over the demonstration at the Parliament Square in London. Photo: REUTERS/Hannah McKay

Shellfish producers’ lorries have parked up near 10 Downing Street and the houses of parliament in London in protest over issues exporting fish to the European Union (EU) since the UK left the bloc.

Lorries were seen with “Brexit Carnage” and “incompetent government destroying shellfish industry” written along their sides in protest to the current situation caused by new Brexit rules. Police were asking drivers for their details.

Scottish fishermen have been unable to export stocks to Europe after the Brexit transition period ended on 31 December due to the introduction of catch certificates, health checks and customs declarations. These have all added to delays to the delivery times meaning European buyers have rejected their stock.

The hold-ups have seen boats stuck at sea with no one able to buy their catch. There were complaints of shellfish rotting in ports due to lorry pile-ups, which has meant the stock had to be thrown away.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson has since confirmed that there will be a £23m ($31.2m) fund compensating fishing companies and exporters affected by problems exporting fish into the EU.

However, this has done little to appease fishermen. Over the past few days there have been reports that drivers will dump their wasted stock outside Downing Street.

Johnson also reportedly blamed seafood exporters for their sales crash for “not filling in the right forms.”

He said “insofar as there are problems at the moment,” they were “caused by teething problems, people not filling in the right forms, or misunderstandings,” the Independent reported.

He added that the UK would control “all the fish” in its coastal waters in years to come. “In just five years’ time, five and a half years’ time, we will have access to all the fish in all of our coastal waters,” he said.

The seafood industry has already warned that fishing businesses could collapse within days, but foreign secretary Dominic Raab said over the weekend that the delays were just "teething problems."

He told the BBC he was "not convinced" the delays were because of the government's trade deal with the EU and argued it will "create huge, sustainable opportunities" for the sector.

A lorry drives during a protest against post-Brexit bureaucracy that hinders exports to the European Union, at the Parliament Square in London, Britain, January 18, 2021. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
A lorry drives during a protest against post-Brexit bureaucracy that hinders exports to the European Union, at the Parliament Square in London. Photo: REUTERS/Hannah McKay

Tavish Scott, chief executive of Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO), said: “It is little surprise given the frustration across the seafood sector, that people are making their presence felt in London today. Livelihoods are at risk.

“It is to be hoped that the UK Government heed the views of people who used to seamlessly export to Europe. All seafood sectors including the salmon farming sector have encountered real export challenges and that has continued over the weekend.”

Before the Brexit deal was signed on Christmas Eve last year, fishing rights were a major sticking point for both London and Brussels.

While fishing plays a small part in the UK and French economies (it makes up 0.1% of the UK economy and employs around 24,000 people), it carries a political weight on both sides of the Channel.

READ MORE: UK fishing industry disappointed by Brexit deal "fudge"

The UK, up until 31 December was bound by the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), meaning every country in the agreement had full access to each other’s waters (with the exception of the first 12 nautical miles) from the coast.

However, fishermen had limits on the volume of fish they can catch from each species and there are also restrictions on exports.

Under the Brexit deal EU boats will continue to fish in UK waters for some years to come, but UK fishing boats will get a greater share of the fish from UK waters.

That shift in the share will be phased in between 2021 and 2026, with most of the quota transferred in 2021. After this, there'll be annual negotiations to decide how the catch is shared out between the UK and EU.

Watch: Why is fishing so important in Brexit talks?