Seafood exporter says government has been 'useless' at providing help with new Brexit rules

Lorries at the entrance to the Port of Dover in Kent. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA.

Lorries at the entrance to the Port of Dover in Kent. Photograph: Gareth Fuller/PA. - Credit: PA

A seafood exporter has said the government has been "useless" at providing information to help businesses deal with new regulations caused by Brexit.

Shane Brennan, chief executive of the Cold Chain Federation, which represents chilled transport and storage companies, said hauliers were encountering issues at Britain's borders despite the amount of cross border traffic still being quite low.

He said: "Trade flows are still only about 50% of what we would expect, but even at those levels we are seeing levels of confusion and delays. 

"The feeling is we are building to quite a significant potential disruption."

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A government spokesman admitted there had been "some issues", but said it had always been clear there would be some disruption at the end of the transition period.

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Earlier, transport secretary Grant Shapps said it was estimated only about 1% of trucks have turned up at ports without the correct paperwork. Despite this, anger is growing among companies whose livelihoods depend on exports.

In a letter to business secretary Alok Sharma, the Scottish salmon producer John Ross Jr launched an attack on the government's handling of the situation.

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The firm's sales director Victoria Leigh-Pearson writes that the company has in recent months "had to endure the government issuing a barrage of useless information" and "absence of factually incorrect information from all government agencies." It amounts, she says, to "gross incompetence".

Part of the letter to Sharma reads: "As I write, perishable goods that were dispatched from our facility five days ago, headed for France following a process that your department advised, have still not crossed the border. This usually takes only 24 hours because they are consolidated with the produce of other companies, which have not been able to follow the correct procedures due to a knowledge gap directly attributable to your department.

"Entire trucks are currently being rejected without explanation by the French customs authority. Our hauliers have now pulled their services as such a backlog has been created. Other hauliers are not taking on new customers. Today, we've even had confirmation that the IT systems of the UK and France are incompatible. After four years you only establish this now?

"Your so-called 'deal' is worthless if this situation is not fixed immediately, and unless you put in place measures to address the issues that continue to unfold on a daily basis. Moreover, as a seafood exporter, it feels as though our own government has thrown us into the cold Atlantic waters without a lifejacket."

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