UK shellfish industry dealt ‘devastating blow’ after EU upholds trade ban

Britain abandons mussels and oysters trade to Europe following Brexit

Fishermen are seen in the harbour at Scarborough, northeast England, on December 21, 2020 as the snap closure of the French border over the Covid-19 pandemic prevents accompanied exports of fresh shellfish. - Fishermen specialising in shellfish, the vast majority of which is exported to France, are not out on their boats on December 21 after the closure of the French border to accompanied freight from the UK amid fears over a new more infectious strain of the novel coronavirus virus means the shellfish could not be delivered to market. (Photo by Oli SCARFF / AFP)
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Britain's shellfish industry was dealt a "devastating blow" as Brexit regulations meant it had to abandon trade with Europe temporarily.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said on Monday that rules regarding British molluscs meant they cannot be exported to the continent.

He said the situation was unacceptable and had written to the European Commission to ask for the rules to be relaxed.

Europe does not accept molluscs – including mussels, oysters, clams and cockles – from Class B waters, which have not been through purification or have not cleared testing.

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 15:  Environment Secretary George Eustice leaves Downing Street for a Cabinet Meeting at the FCO, on December 15, 2020 in London, England. Ministers may review the Christmas coronavirus guidelines that allow three households to meet inside for a five-day period, after a spike in cases across London and the South East that sees the area moving into Tier 3 from 00:01 Wednesday. (Photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images)
British Environment Secretary George Eustice demanded the EU relax rules concerning the import of British molluscs. Getty.

This meant EU traders cannot now accept some shellfish caught off the Welsh or Cornish coasts, although molluscs from Class A waters in Scotland are unaffected.

British shellfish farmers had been able to sidestep these regulations while trading under bloc rules, but they must now obey the Class B ban.

Mr Eustice said there was a “long-standing trade in live bivalve molluscs to the EU from UK waters”.

He said this benefited “both our own shellfish industry and EU restaurants and retailers who rely on these premium products from the UK”.

According to Mr Eustice, the EC changed its position last week, and prior to that “they had been clear that this was a trade that could continue”.

"We continue to believe that our interpretation of the law and the EU's original interpretation is correct and that the trade should be able to continue for all relevant molluscs from April," he told parliament.

“Bringing an end to this traditional and valuable trade is unacceptable. I recognise this is a devastating blow to those businesses that are reliant on the trade.”

The introduction of checks and paperwork after Britain's departure from the EU caused widespread disruption to exports of fresh fish and seafood.

Fishers across Britain expressed frustration at a lack of government action.

Last month, seafood hauliers protested against the Brexit fishing deal by parking their lorries in central London.