Posted on Jan 23, 2021
Britain's fishing industry is reeling in the face not only of a mountain of bureaucracy, but also the vindictiveness of French officials who in the words of one fisherman "have waited centuries to get the upper hand over the English, now they are enjoying their day."
The Daily Mail has reported on tricks employed by French customers to delay, or even reject, loads of fish arriving at Boulogne and elsewhere, one being held over for 12 hours because consignments of fish were labelled 'UK' instead of 'GB'.
Regular cross-channel travellers will be aware that French border police at Calais and other ports often appear to be moving in slow-motion at the best of times, however they are reportedly now relishing the extra powers handed to them.
During the first two weeks of January many exporters and hauliers reported that they failed to get a single shipment through.
As EUToday recently reported, continental consumers are also suffering, with fish supplies drying up, and empty supermarket shelves becoming the norm.
In Paris, the shelves of Marks and Spencers' 15 stores - the brand is hugely popular across France - are mostly barren.
Shamefully, some might argue, UK Brexit negotiators allowed the country to walk into a trap by agreeing a six-month period of grace thus handing over control of a potential area of conflict to foreign power. The results of this major error of judgement can be seen in the fishing ports of England and Scotland today.
As for the much vaunted Royal Navy presence in British waters, protecting the fishing grounds from French, Spanish, Belgian, and Dutch trawlers, the one, or at the very most two of the four fishery protection vessels that can put to sea at any one time will most likely be engaged in escorting boatfuls of illegal migrants to Dover.
The government has absolutely failed to deliver on the expectations of an industry that was overwhelmingly in favour of Brexit.
It is however worth considering the fact that whilst most coverage of the issue concerns fish exports to Europe, the UK is in fact a net importer.
In 2019, the UK imported 721 thousand tonnes of sea fish, with a value of £3,457 million. It exported 452 thousand tonnes with a value of £2,004 million.
A trade gap of 270 thousand tonnes, in this context, is quite significant, and the current situation.
Perhaps the much promised investment in the UK fishing industry might focus on building the domestic market, putting more fresh fish into that market, and possibly even bringing down prices, all while improving Britain's balance of trade figures?
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