Brexit unease looms after seafood Christmas crisis

Jamie McMillan

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As the UK leaves the European Union, there are fears Argyll’s seafood exporters could face hurdles getting produce to vital continental markets.

The Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation (SSPO) this week demanded the UK Government delivers on its commitment to prioritise perishable seafood from January 1.

Many seafood companies saw tonnes of fresh produce bound for the European Christmas market go to waste after France announced a 48-hour suspension of travel from the UK – leading to a huge build up of lorry traffic near the Port of Dover.

That move followed the UK Government’s ordering of a ‘tier four’ lockdown of south east England from Sunday December 20 amid concerns about a new variant of Covid-19.

Freight was allowed to move again from Wednesday December 22, but only after drivers had tested negative for the virus.

SSPO chief executive Tavish Scott said that if swift action was not taken, Scotland’s seafood exporters are going to face ‘a second transport crisis’.

He added: ‘They have already lost millions having been shut out of the European market in the run-up to Christmas. They cannot afford to go through that again. That is why the UK Government has to act now and make it clear that prioritising seafood consignments has to happen without delay.’

Trade body Seafood Scotland said the situation had given a ‘terrifying insight’ into what the situation could be from January 1.

Donna Fordyce, Seafood Scotland chief executive, warned of ‘a red tape blockade which will likely have exactly the same impact’ as the pre-Christmas difficulties.

Tarbert shellfish producer Jamie McMillan of Lochfyne Langoustines took to Twitter to vent his frustration in a series of videos.

He slammed Westminster politicians, calling for them to ‘get their act together’ as thousands of lorries backed up before Christmas.

He said: ‘Access to markets is key for Scottish food and drink exporters. Three days before Christmas and we can’t get our product to market in France or Spain. It’s a disaster for us.’

In later videos he thanked his UK customers for their support while hitting the road to sell produce.

Mr McMillan was relieved on December 27 to see a lorry loaded with live shellfish – lobsters, langoustines, razor clams and cockles – heading to France, saying: ‘Fingers crossed there are no delays.’

The following day he reported: ‘The good news is my truck made the delivery deadline in France.’

But he posed the question: ‘What’s going to happen after Brexit? Will we still get access to markets so easily?’