Free trade deal vital after Brexit – ambassador

ICELAND’S outgoing ambassador to Britain spoke last night of the need for the two countries to secure a free trade deal on seafood after Brexit.

Thordur Aegir Oskarsson, who leaves next month after three years in the post, said at the moment Icelandic fish exported to the UK were subject to tariffs because it was part of the EU. But that situation would come to an end in March 2019.

The ambassador, who opened the seventh Humber Seafood Summit in Grimsby, said fish was of critical importance to the Icelandic economy, accounting for 40 per cent of exports, and Britain was its largest market, with most of the fish coming through Grimsby.

‘I first came to Grimsby with our then fisheries minister three years ago and I believe that every ambassador (to the UK) should make Grimsby their first place to visit after London,’ he said.

There were strong links between the port and his country, a relationship that brought mutual benefits, he added.

Since the banking crash of 2008, Iceland had recovered strongly thanks to a diversified economy which included tourism, energy and services.

But fish still remained important and the UK played a critical role in this recovery ‘as it is still the most important market for our seafood’.

Oskarsson also said it was important for countries to build a national brand and Iceland was doing this successfully. There was no reason, he believed, why Grimsby and the Humberside region could not also build its own brand.

The guests were welcomed by Marcus Coleman, chief executive of Seafish, who said the seafood summit provided a fantastic showcase for products from the Humber region.

The seafood conference on the nearby Cleethorpes Pier today is expected to attract more than 200 fishing and seafood executives, when the potential impact of Brexit will be debated.

However, the key theme of discussion will be Supply and Demand, which will cover topics such as ethics, product integrity and reputation.

Picture: Iceland’s outgoing ambassador to the UK, Thordur Aegir Oskarsson

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