UK seafood exporters may face serious hurdles if they want to sell into Europe next year, a European parliament Brexit conference in Grimsby was told at the weekend.
Unless there is a satisfactory deal between Britain and the EU, then everything from Scottish salmon to shellfish and cod could be subject to tariffs.
That was the warning from Yorkshire and Humber MEP Richard Corbett, one of the main speakers at the event. He said there was no simple solution to the problems now being thrown up by Brexit.
The EU had already indicated that if it doesn’t get access to British waters then UK seafood exports to its markets will be restricted.
‘Around 80 per cent of our fish is exported, most of it into the EU,’ said Corbett. ‘If tariffs are imposed then it will be a problem – these tariffs vary from five per cent for fresh salmon to up to 25 per cent for certain types of processed seafood.’
Corbett (pictured), who is also on the European parliament Fisheries Committee, warned of other issues, such as border post delays and additional regulations which, for fresh produce like fish, could be another problem.
‘I believe most of these problems are self inflicted by the government’s determination to leave the customs union and the single market.
‘Then Scotland and Northern Ireland will be running their own fishing policies to some degree, which will add to the complexities.
‘Some of the hopes and benefits promised by the leave campaigners about taking back full control of our fishing grounds may not turn out to be so great,’ he added.
Dr Jill Wakefield, of the University of Warwick School of Law, echoed similar fears about possible tariffs on British fish exports to Europe.
She said this would probably happen if Britain rejected the Common Fisheries Policy during the transition period.
And although after next March Britain would be free to follow an independent fishing policy, it still faced restrictions from other (non EU) international agreements.
The Grimsby conference was chaired by BBC Radio’s Farming Today Presenter Anna Hill, who said the UK fishing industry contributed £682 million to the national economy in 2016, and sustained more than 30,000 jobs.