George Eustice slams EU over barriers on shellfish exports

Don’t be so shellfish! George Eustice slams EU over barriers on exports from UK as even the French chair of bloc’s fisheries committee says rule that catches must be cleaned in Britain ‘makes no sense’

  • George Eustice condemned the EU for blocking shellfish exports from the UK
  • Bloc demanding catches cleaned in UK before being transported to continent
  • French MEP chair of fisheries committee admitted the rule ‘makes no sense’ 

Ministers branded the EU decision to place restrictions on live UK shellfish exports ‘indefensible’ today – as even a senior MEP admitted it ‘makes no sense’.

Environment Secretary George Eustice insisted there is ‘no legal barrier’ to the trade as he demanded the European Commission behaves reasonably.

The introduction of new checks and paperwork since the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31 has caused disruption to exports of fresh fish and seafood to the EU.

Many British waters are classed as Grade B, and since Brexit shellfish have to be cleaned before being sent to Europe.

But there are not enough facilities in the UK as the catches used to be sent to the EU for purification. Ministers had expected the bloc would permit the trade to resume once a new health certificate was produced, but say it has now backtracked. 

French MEP Pierre Karleskind, who chairs the European Parliament’s committee on fisheries, hit out at the commission today saying ‘the UK waters did not become dirty on the 31st December at midnight’.  

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

Mr Eustice said the Commission changed its position last week, and that prior to that ‘they had been clear that this was a trade that could continue’.

Environment Secretary George Eustice insisted there is ‘no legal barrier’ to the trade as he demanded the European Commission behaves reasonably

The introduction of new checks and paperwork since the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31 has caused disruption to exports of fresh fish and seafood to the EU. Pictured, fleets at Scarborough 

He said in an interview with LBC that the action, which puts a ‘ban on the trade altogether’ was ‘quite unexpected and really indefensible’.

‘Whereas previously they’d been clear that this is trade that could continue, and all they needed to do was design the right export health certificate,’ he added.

And he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘We wrote to the Commissioner yesterday, we have been in dialogue with them.

‘The truth is there is no legal barrier to this trade continuing, both on animal health grounds and on public health grounds – there is legal provision within existing EU regulations to allow such trade to continue from the UK.

‘We are just asking the EU to abide by their existing regulations and not to seek to change them.

‘They did change their position just last week – prior to that they had been clear that this was a trade that could continue – so we want to work to understand why they are proposing a change at this stage.’

He said the UK is hoping it can resolve the issue with the EU and ‘get them to abide by their own regulations’.

French MEP Pierre Karleskind, who chairs the European Parliament’s committee on fisheries, told Today that Brexit was to blame for the issues but said they do not make sense.

‘I have no problem with the fact that we have to find this solution, unfortunately so far the answer that I received from Mrs (Stella) Kyriakides, the (European) commissioner for health, was no.

‘So I am not satisfied so far with this question and the fact is that the UK waters did not become dirty on the 31st December at midnight, so this really doesn’t make any sense.

‘Except that we have to find a way to be sure in the long term we will have the insurance that what we import from the UK does satisfy the high standards of quality and of sanitary quality for our consumer.’

Last month seafood hauliers protested against the Brexit fishing deal by stacking lorries in central London

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