Brexit delays causing huge uncertainty, say fish processors
Fish industry figures say they are suffering from huge uncertainty over Brexit as they urged MPs to deliver on the vote to the leave the EU without further delay.
Buyers at Peterhead fish market in Aberdeenshire on Friday, the day the UK was scheduled to depart, described the process as a “shambles” and said politicians had managed the situation “appallingly”.
The north east port sees the highest volume of fish landings per year in the UK.
Fish processors, along with fishermen, have been a strong pro-Brexit voice but they have differing views on the best way forward from the current stalemate.
Andrew Charles, of Aberdeen-based processors J Charles, said: “I think it’s a shambles. We can’t plan ahead and we face huge uncertainty.
“We have to have a deal. It might not be a good deal, but we’ve got to have some kind of deal. And then we’ve got to take a long-term view and improve on that deal as the years go forward.”
Mr Charles, 56, added: “I think you’ve got to question if the House of Commons is fit for purpose. Because the way they’ve gone about managing this situation is appalling.
“We expected our Government to behave in a way that led us towards the Brexit that was democratically voted upon and deliver a deal. We should have had that by now.”
He said he believed a no-deal would be “catastrophic” for some of the UK’s smaller fish exporters.
“If you’re faced with £90 charges per consignment and freight charges going into Europe, many of these small exporters would shut their doors. So a no-deal from that perspective is just not an option,” he said.
The latest Government figures show UK vessels landed 724,000 tonnes of fish at home and abroad in 2017, with a value of £980 million.
The main exports are salmon, mackerel and herring, with France, the Netherlands and Spain the largest markets.
Robert Milne, of Peterhead-based processor J H Milne, said the industry feeling on what was to be Brexit Day was one of frustration.
He said: “I think the biggest problem for most fish merchants is the uncertainty. We’re not getting what we voted for. There’s nothing being delivered at the moment.
“Every time they go into Parliament, nobody’s coming up with any answers. They’re all just arguing amongst themselves.
“I haven’t got a clue what’ll happen. That’s the biggest problem, and everybody’s in the same boat. It’s bewildering. They’re not delivering what was voted for.”
At the fish market, there were concerns that another referendum could be on the cards, with one buyer saying it was an “absolute certainty”.
For Mr Milne, 49, a no-deal scenario would be preferable to further months of political wrangling.
He said: “From my business’s point of view, it would certainly be better just to go for a no-deal.
“I’m not saying all fish merchants would say the same. The guys that operate in the UK would certainly be of that mind, but the people that are exporting, they would have a different opinion.”
He added: “We voted for Brexit, let’s get it done. It’s taking too long and everybody’s getting more and more confused.”