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Brexit exemption sought for town’s seafood trade

SEAFOOD should be given special free trade status after Brexit to ensure Grimsby’s industry is not damaged, MPs have been told.

Brexit exemption sought for town’s seafood trade

Key figures from the wider Lincolnshire food industry were in Westminster last week to provide the Government with their vision for meeting the challenges presented by the UK leaving the European Union.

Grimsby’s seafood processing industry faces a number of Brexit-related issues – from a potential 20 per cent labour shortfall to delays in fresh fish reaching the town’s factories, as well as import fees. 

The industry and its big name producers, such as Young’s and Icelandic Seachill, imports 90 per cent of the fish it processes for retailers, restaurants and fish and chip shops.

Simon Dwyer, a spokesman for cluster group Seafood Grimsby & Humber, called on the Government to look at bestowing free trade status on the ports of Immingham and Grimsby in relation to seafood.

It would mean, even though Britain will be outside the EU and the customs union after Brexit, the much-feared customs checks and import tariffs would not exist for seafood coming in or out of the ports.

“It would mean those ports having the privilege of not putting import taxes or duties on seafood,” said Mr Dwyer, who gave a presentation to MPs in Parliament.

The logistics consultant said the industry was also looking at investing in aquaculture to help get around possible future import costs.

Mr Dwyer said: “If we have the processing industry in Grimsby, why don’t we have some aquaculture close-by to complement that?”

A number of Lincolnshire MPs attended the reception and dinner in Parliament, including Cleethorpes MP, Martin Vickers, and Louth MP, Victoria Atkins.

Mr Vickers said the possibility of free trade status for northern Lincolnshire’s ports was a sign of post-Brexit optimism.

“We couldn’t do that if we wanted to at the moment,” said the Eurosceptic Tory. 

“But once we get control of our own economy again, that is one of the things that could be looked at and which could be very beneficial.

“That emphasises the freedoms and opportunities that could be opening up after Brexit.”

Minister George Eustice, responsible for fisheries, had been due to attend the reception – organised by the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership – but was not present during the speeches.

John Hayes, a junior transport minister and south Lincolnshire MP, was the only minister representing the Government.

Representatives from Grimsby’s seafood processing industry are due to meet with Mr Eustice on November 22, in a meeting arranged by Mr Vickers.

Mr Dwyer, who will be back in London for that, said the industry’s three main Brexit concerns – customs checks, tariffs on seafood and access to migrant workers – still remained.

“All of this is about making sure we remain competitive,” he said. “We have rival processing centres in Bremerhaven (Germany) and Boulogne-sur-Mer (France) where they will be looking to capitalise after Brexit.

“Any agreements about customs has to be done on both sides. If seafood is stuck in Calais for two days on its way to us, then that is no good either.”

It came as a local conference to examine Brexit’s impact on North East Lincolnshire is worked up for early in the new year, with seafood topping the agenda. 

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