The Scottish National Party has branded the UK Government’s efforts to fix the Brexit-related issues affecting Scotland’s seafood industry as “risible and woefully inadequate”.
It criticised the Westminster taskforce for winding up after six months without “solutions to crippling Brexit issues”.
The final report of the Scottish Seafood Exports Taskforce was published yesterday, explaining progress made to mitigate the effects on Scottish seafood exports caused by the UK’s exit from the EU at the start of this year.
It revealed that the Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Scottish Government have agreed to meet with the taskforce stakeholders once per month for the remainder of the year, adding that the taskforce will “remain live” until the action log has been completed, although “new challenges may emerge as the new trading relationship with the EU is further established”.
The report read: “Colleagues in the UK and Scottish Governments are keen to ensure dialogue with industry is normalised and maintained – this will ensure the relevant policy teams are sighted on the latest practical issues faced by stakeholders, allowing them to drive solutions internally.”
It confirmed that the taskforce had completed its investigation into initial issues and was closing down after six months and eight meetings.
Following the end of the Brexit transition period on 1 January exports of fresh fish and seafood quickly became severely disrupted by delays mostly due to paperwork and confusion at both British and European borders.
Earlier this year, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) put in place a £23m compensation package for firms exporting fish and shellfish to the EU.
Work is being carried out to fully digitise the journey from catch to eventual overseas delivery, which will result in e-certificates and move away from paper. This should be ready by early 2022.
Export Health Certificates Online (EHCO) is being updated to provide this digitised journey.
“The fully digitised journey will load EHC data from EHCO into the Trade Control and Expert System, allow certifiers to complete an attestation and strikethroughs electronically to allow the import notification.”
Electronic stamping will start in Northern Ireland before moving to EU trade soon after.
SNP MSP for Banff and Buchan Karen Adam responded: “After just six months and only eight meetings, the Westminster government’s taskforce has submitted its final report, so you might expect that the numerous problems faced by our vital seafood industry have been resolved – spoiler alert: they have most certainly not and the job is not even half done.
“It would be churlish not to recognise that the taskforce has made some progress to improve export paperwork, but the sum of these changes are risible and woefully inadequate for many seafood businesses caught up in masses of red tape and new trade barriers created by Brexit.
“For the Scottish Tories to start to wind up the taskforce now, when so many crucial issues remain outstanding, is nothing short of negligent.
“For the future of Scotland’s coastal communities, the Tories must rethink their abrogation of responsibility.”
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