George Eustice has claimed that the European Union has unexpectedly changed its position on live UK exports of shellfish.
The environment secretary has called on Brussels to abide by existing regulations as producers expressed frustration at the lack of government action.
The introduction of new checks and paperwork since the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31 has caused disruption to exports of fresh fish and seafood to the EU.
Eustice said the European Commission changed its position last week, and that prior to that “they had been clear that this was a trade that could continue”.
He said in an interview with LBC that the action, which puts a “ban on the trade altogether” was “quite unexpected and really indefensible”.
“Whereas previously they’d been clear that this is trade that could continue, and all they needed to do was design the right export health certificate,” he added.
And he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We wrote to the Commissioner yesterday, we have been in dialogue with them.
“The truth is there is no legal barrier to this trade continuing, both on animal health grounds and on public health grounds – there is legal provision within existing EU regulations to allow such trade to continue from the UK.
“We are just asking the EU to abide by their existing regulations and not to seek to change them.
“They did change their position just last week – prior to that they had been clear that this was a trade that could continue – so we want to work to understand why they are proposing a change at this stage.”
He said the UK is hoping it can resolve the issue with the EU and “get them to abide by their own regulations”.