UK unveils aid for fishing industry, reeling from post-Brexit checks

Michael Holden
·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Fishing boat sits docked in Macduff, Aberdeenshire

By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain unveiled an extra 23 million pounds of funding on Tuesday to compensate fishing businesses which have seen their exports to mainland Europe throttled by the introduction of post-Brexit checks.

Many fishermen have been unable to get their produce to the EU since catch certificates, health checks and customs declarations were introduced at the start of this year when Britain finally left the bloc.

On Monday, fishermen staged a protest near parliament and Prime Minister Boris Johnson's office in London, saying the industry could collapse, while the Scotland Food & Drink association says exporters could be losing more than 1 million pounds ($1.36 million) in sales a day.

The government has said there were "teething problems" exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic which had hit restaurant orders. It said the new funding would help seafood businesses deal with "the challenges of adjusting to new requirements for exporting".

The scheme, which will cover losses incurred since Jan. 1, is aimed at small and medium-sized firms that can show "a genuine loss" in exporting to the EU, with a maximum of 100,000 pounds available to each business.

"We are continuing to work closely with the fishing and aquaculture sectors to make sure that they are supported, and can continue to fish whilst contributing to the economies of our coastal communities," environment minister George Eustice said.

Under a deal reached last month, British trade with the EU remains free of tariffs and quotas, but the erection of a customs border has led to bureaucracy that has hampered "just in time" delivery systems for perishable goods.

Britain's biggest fishing port, Peterhead in northeast Scotland, has seen an 18% drop in the volume of fish landed so far this year, according to a Reuters calculation from daily catch data.

"Europe's biggest fish market in Peterhead (is) like a ghost town. Boats tied up, exporters crippled," James Withers, chief executive of Scotland Food & Drink, said in reaction to an online photograph of a near-empty warehouse at the port.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Giles Elgood)