Sunlit Uplands: As shellfish war rages, the net closes around George Eustice

George Eustice in Downing Street, watched by photographers

Environment secretary George Eustice leaves Downing Street for a Cabinet meeting - Credit: Peter Summers/Getty Images

Steve Anglesey brings you your weekly check on how Project Fear is becoming Project Reality.

It has been a gloomy week on the sunlit uplands of sovereign Britain, where the government accused the EU of being selfish over shellfish.

Environment secretary George Eustice started the tussles by claiming Brussels was flexing its muscles on mussels, as well as other bivalve molluscs like oysters which used to be allowed to be caught here and purified over there.

Eustice accused the bloc of “a change of heart” and “making it up”, leading to supply line problems that are devastating for small businesses. Then a December 10 letter from him to colleagues surfaced, making it clear that once we became a ‘third country’ on January 1, the export of unpurified live wild bivalve molluscs to the EU would “not be possible”. Conspiracy or cockle-up? You decide.

Nicki Holmyard said her 30-year-old firm Offshore Shellfish, which employs 15 people in Brixham, Devon, might have to close as a result. "If this can't be sorted out we really need to think, well how can we carry on?" she said.

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"It takes a long time to actually build and then find the markets to absorb what you're growing and that market was Europe. This is the model that we have built our entire business on so the thought that it might be taken away is really quite devastating for us."

Marine Le Pen’s adviser, French MEP Philippe Olivier, told the Daily Express he had a solution: A bipartisan shellfish trade deal between Britain and France. There was just one problem, the Brexit-loving paper admitted: France is “not able to do so as it is a member of the EU.”

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But Boris Johnson had a cunning plan, declaring Britons should eat more fish to cope with the shortfall. Since we used to export 333,000 tonnes of the stuff to the EU every year, that means every non-vegetarian adult Brit would have to scoff an additional 8kg of extra fish per year, more than double the amount they eat now. Time, perhaps, for another one of those three-part government slogans: Stay Calm. Save Brexit. Sprinkle Cod On Your Cornflakes.

Of course, there are some types of fish you can eat for breakfast. However, the thought of Nigel Farage’s former party has probably put readers of The New European off kippers for good, and former Brexit Party MEP Lance Forman might have done the same for smoked salmon, which his family has been producing under the H Forman London cure brand since 1905.

Asked on Twitter whether Brexiteers like him should feel partly responsible for the fishing industry’s woes, Lance went on the offensive and hit the roof when a woman asked about his son’s role as CEO of right wing group Turning Point UK.

He replied: “You really are a filthy, disgusting, bitch. My son has more integrity, honesty, love and respect in his little finger than you have in your entire mind, body and sole [sic]...  I hope Brexit makes your life a misery till the end. You deserve to be miserable.”

Alas, the people whose lives Brexit is making miserable at the moment appear to be those in Lance’s own industry. All rather fishy, isn’t it?

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