AS the Scottish fishing industry descends further into crisis Westminster Tories have responded with broken promises and bad jokes.
With the full impact of Boris Johnson’s terrible Brexit deal becoming clearer with every passing day exports of Scottish fish to the industry’s most important customers are being blocked by red tape and paperwork.
For an industry which markets itself on the freshness of its produce these delays are proving ruinous. An ITV report yesterday followed the journey of langoustines from Scotland to markets in France.
Exporters have 24 hours to get the seafood to markets while they are still alive. Now they are being held up for days.
Jamie Roberts, the skipper of the Guide Then trawler, said: ‘‘The vans and the lorries are being hold up in Dover and Calais for 24 hours, two days, sometimes three days. They’re dead … game over.’’
Before the langoustines can even be sent to the EU they need to be examined by a health officer in the UK … but there are not enough of them to keep up with demand.
Ronald Scordia at Angelbond processors in Glasgow told ITV: ‘‘On the TV, the radio and in the newspapers we heard ‘be ready for Brexit’. We are ready. We’ve done all the paperwork to export our products. But the government are not ready for sure.’’
To avoid the langoustines from going off Scordia has been forced to freeze, which immediately cuts the sale price in in half.
According to the Independent the Brexit deal could be ‘‘a permanent – possibly even lethal – blow to an industry that was presented as one of the great victors’’ of leaving the EU.
As hundreds of Scottish fishing boats remain moored at docks prices for some brands of fish have fallen by 80 per cent.
‘‘People are stressed, angry and some feel their businesses are slipping away,’’ said James Withers, chief executive of Scotland Food & Drink.
We lost two pallets last week. It took five days to arrive in Boulogne from Scotland, so our goods were rotten on arrival
Jamie McMillan, managing director of Lochfyne Langoustines, is one of those who warn his business is on the brink of bankruptcy. ‘‘We’ve been screaming for the last six months … eight months … that we have to get our produce to market within 12 to 24 hours, ’’ he told BBC Radio Scotland yesterday.
‘‘Any delays in that process, our shellfish will arrive in France dead. We lost two pallets last week. It took five days to arrive in Boulogne from Scotland, so our goods were rotten on arrival’’.
The Tory government appeared on Thursday to roll-back on a promise made by Prime Minister in Parliament to compensate fishing businesses for the Brexit mess.
Tory Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary George Eustice appeared to perform a U-turn on Boris Johnson’s statement.
Eustice was unable to give details of any compensation scheme in the House of Commons and claimed the disruption only amounted to “teething problems”.
Instead, Eustice indicated many of the delays were due to seafood firms exporting to the EU not correctly filling in paperwork, saying this had been less of an issue for firms with experience of selling goods outside the bloc.
“The key thing is to get this process working more smoothly, and that requires traders to familiarise themselves with that,” he said, adding that the paperwork had been designed by the EU and could be improved.
After all the lies and broken promises on Brexit, the Tories will never be trusted again by people across Scotland. It beggars belief that they are even rolling back on the Prime Minister’s promise of compensation – leaving many to conclude he is utterly untrustworthy
The SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford told the Commons that the ‘‘Tory extreme’’ Brexit deal has been a disaster for Scotland.
He added: ‘‘After all the lies and broken promises on Brexit, the Tories will never be trusted again by people across Scotland. It beggars belief that they are even rolling back on the Prime Minister’s promise of compensation – leaving many to conclude he is utterly untrustworthy.’’
The Tories sparked more anger when government minister Jacob Rees-Mogg said that leaving the EU had been a boon for fish. Mr Rees-Mogg said: ‘‘What is happening is that the Government is tackling this issue, dealing with it as quickly as possible, and the key thing is we’ve got our fish back. They’re now British fish and they’re better and happier fish for it.’’
Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle intervened and noted: ‘‘Obviously there’s no overwhelming evidence for that.’’ Which is something of an understatement.
SNP President Michael Russell tweeted: ‘‘Yesterday many were disgusted with the flippant responses from Johnson to serious questions about real losses being experienced by Scottish companies unable to export.
‘‘This adds further arrogant insults to such callous injury. Jacob Rees-Mogg as unfit for office as his boss.”