EU labelled 'vindictive' and 'incompetent' by Scarborough and Whitby MP Robert Goodwill after ban on British shellfish

A Yorkshire MP has accused the European Union of "vindictiveness" and "incompetence" after Brussels imposed an outright ban on importing certain types of shellfish from the UK.

Monday, 8th February 2021, 9:06 pm

Robert Goodwill urged Environment Secretary George Eustice to take action after fishermen who land scallops in his Scarborough and Whitby constituency were told there was no market for their fish.

The EU has told the UK shellfish industry that thousands of tonnes of oyster, mussel, clam, cockle and scallop exports are banned from the bloc indefinitely in what Mr Eustice described as "devastating blow" to the industry.

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MP Robert Goodwill Scarborough Harbourside 2017. Pic: Richard Ponter

The Conservative Minister told the Commons yesterday that the move was a chance on its previous position and that "bringing an end to this traditional and valuable trade is unacceptable".

He said: “While we do not agree at all with the commission’s interpretation of the law, we have had to advise traders that their consignments may very well not be accepted at EU ports for now."

Labour's Stephanie Peacock said "the UK shellfish industry would not survive" if barriers placed on some UK shellfish exports were not lifted.

The Barnsley MP and shadow fisheries Minister said the multi-million pound industry had been put on hold "overnight" as she called for Environment Secretary George Eustice to publish his correspondence on the issue, and for an assessment of how many businesses had been affected by the saga.

And she said: "Whoever is to blame, the fact is shellfish farmers and fishers are not able to export the most valuable product to their most important market."

Me Eustice replied: “I am seeking urgent resolution to this problem and I have written to commissioner (Stella) Kyriakides today. I have emphasised our high shellfish health status and our systems of control and I have said if it would assist the trade we could provide reasonable additional assurances to demonstrate shellfish health.

“But that this must also recognise the existing high standards and history of trade between us.”

Conservative Mr Goodwill, a former fisheries Minister, told MPs: "Fishermen who land scallops into Scarborough and Whitby have been told by their wholesalers that there is no market for that fish, so they're currently tied up despite approaching peak season, which ends at the end of April.

Is the current situation with regard to European Commission, which flies in the face of the advice they gave in September 2019, an example of their vindictiveness or their incompetence and will the Secretary of State write to the chair of the European Parliament fisheries committee, whose job is to hold the commission to account?"

The Minister replied that he did not know why the EU had changed its position but said: “I very much hope that on reflection, the European Union commission will look at this again, and realise that the judgment made is wrong.”

The Environment Secretary said he will publish correspondence with the EU Commission which he cited as evidence it has changed its position on shellfish exports.

Later, Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake asked the Minister about the fishing community in Filey, which specialises in lobster and crabs. The Tory MP said: "Food exporters of all type are finding it more difficult to export to the EU currently than non-EU countries.

It seems to be a consistency problem and a common understanding of the rules. Will he do whatever he can to build an agreement that deals with food and plant export and rsolves these issues as soon as possible?"

Mr Eustice replied: "We are aware there have also been some teething issues in some sections of the seafood industry, notably crabs and lobsters when they have been imported live. There have been improvements, we are now seeing a lot consignments going through the short straits and clearing border control posts, often in no more than 45 minutes and reaching their destination on time.

"I agree the paperwork associated with that could be improved, it would require the EU to engage constructively in such a discussion."