Edinburgh, Jan 15 (IANS) Scottish seafood companies only have “weeks” to survive without action to ease European Union (EU) export delays, an industry leader has warned.
An “overwhelming amount” of paperwork and bureaucracy since the start of the new year has left seafood exporters struggling to get to grips with new systems, Xinhua news agency quoted Donna Fordyce, chief executive of Seafood Scotland, as saying to Sky News on Thursday.
“We’ve dealt with COVID since March, the border delays at Christmas — the whole sector is on its knees and the resilience has gone,” she said.
Fordyce said there was no shortage of demand for Scottish seafood from across Europe, with the French market “desperate for our product”.
She called for “breathing space” and a grace period during which the new system can be improved.
“The companies haven’t got months and months to survive, we’re talking weeks,” she added.
In response, UK Environment Secretary George Eustice described the issue as “teething problems”, saying goods will flow normally once businesses come to terms with the paperwork.
“They are only teething problems, once people get used to using the paperwork goods will flow normally,” Eustice told MPs in the House of Commons (lower house of parliament) on Thursday.
“Of course, it would have been open to the EU to offer us a grace period just as we have done — had a grace period for their goods coming to us.”
The EU and the UK announced on December 24, 2020 that they had reached an agreement that would govern their trade and security relationship starting from January 1, 2021, at the end of the Brexit transition period.
The deal, which came after nine months of arduous negotiations, is the biggest bilateral trade deal signed by either side, covering trade worth around 668 billion pounds ($906 billion).
The EU is the UK’s largest trading partner, while the country is the bloc’s third largest trading partner in goods.