Labour’s shadow environment secretary has called on George Eustice to apologise for Brexit trade barriers which have left seafood companies on the verge of collapse.
Luke Pollard said the deal had left the shellfish industry in a “mess” and that many fishermen felt “betrayed” by the government’s handling of their interests during the Brexit negotiations.
The EU has confirmed that a ban on exports of live oysters, clams, scallops and mussels from Britain’s class B waters would become permanent now that the UK was listed as a third country.
Ministers are reportedly looking at restricting the import of European mineral water and seed potatoes in response.
Taking to the despatch box on Thursday, Pollard asked the minister would apologise for the trade chaos the industry has faced since January 1.
“Fishing was promised a sea of opportunity but the reality is that many fishing businesses are on the verge of collapse,” he said.
“Much of the extra fish may not even exist or be able to be caught by British boats.
“The fishing industry feels betrayed. Isn’t now the time for the secretary of state to apologise to the fishing industry for the Brexit deal his government negotiated?”
Eustice said Downing Street had tried to negotiate a “zonal attachment sharing arrangement” to cover its first year out of the Common Fisheries Policy but were instead left with a 25% increase of its catch, which is worth £140million.
Pollard told the minister he could not “wriggle out of this one” by blaming the EU because “the net is closing in on him”.
He said: “The reality is that fishing has lost trust and confidence in DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) for all its broken promises. Fishing businesses have closed, others will follow.
“What will he do to fix the mess this incompetent government created for fishing communities nationwide?”
Eustice replied: “It is the case that, yes, as we’ve left the single market and customs union, there are some new administrative processes in place. It’s also the case that was challenging for the fishing sector in the month of January and that’s why we opened a fund to support them.
“But when I looked at the long term, we have regained control of regulations in our waters and enabled us to do conservation measures… which were never possible as an EU country. These are all the things that could not be done when we were shackled to the Common Fisheries Policy.”