Barrie Deas, chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations (NFFO), has been an outspoken critic of the post-Brexit trade deal which Boris Johnson signed at the end of last year, arguing it fails to make good on the Prime Minister’s vow to take back control of UK waters. In addition, he is unhappy at the current export ban on raw shellfish into the EU, which poses a grave threat to the livelihoods of numerous small companies as things stand.
Mr Deas told Express.co.uk: “Our concerns about the double-whammy of failing to achieve the rights associated with our legal status as an international coastal state and loss of frictionless trade into the EU remain very acute.
“There are still very significant problems involved in exporting fish and shellfish into the EU.”
Mr Deas was speaking after the creation of the Scottish Seafood Exports Task Force, bringing together representatives from the UK Government and the catching, processing and aquaculture sectors north of the border.
However, Mr Deas was dubious about the benefit such a body would offer in practice.
He said: “I think that this initiative owes more to the forthcoming May elections in Scotland than anything else.
“There is already an action group coordinated by Defra which meets bi-weekly on Tuesdays and Thursdays and involves all the key players from the industry and government concerned with the export of fish and shellfish into the EU.
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Mr Deas added: “On bi-valve molluscs, my understanding is that a dossier will be submitted to the Commission this week seeking a reinterpretation of their own rule.
“More generally on shellfish and fish exports, exporting is definitely more difficult – a mix of adjustment issues and more entrenched problems.”
Speaking on Friday, Scotland Office minister David Duguid hailed the “spirit of co-operation” on show at the inaugural meeting of the group.
Both Scottish Fisheries Secretary Fergus Ewing and his Westminster counterpart George Eustice were in attendance, along with representatives from throughout the industry.
Afterwards, Mr Duguid said: “The spirit of co-operation between all parties was good to see and my officials will now drill down to identify areas for rapid action.
“The next taskforce meeting is in a fortnight but our engagement with industry continues on a daily basis, as does our work to speed world-class Scottish seafood from port to plate as smoothly as possible.”
During the meeting, the group discussed the movement of mixed loads post-Brexit, with “constructive” talks held on practical solutions to ease the flow of goods across borders.
Ahead of the talks, Mr Ewing said the UK Government-led task force must not just be a “talking shop”.
Instead, it should provide practical solutions and support to the Scottish seafood industry he stressed.