The chaos faced by seafood exporters struggling to get their produce into the EU has been described as a “shambles of the government’s own making”.
The attack has been levelled against the UK government by Alistair Carmichael, who secured an urgent debate on the impact the UK/EU trade deal is having on the seafood sector.
Speaking in parliament on Thursday, Mr Carmichael challenged ministers to discuss the issue with those in the industry through round table talks this week.
He told Rural Affairs Minister George Eustice boats had been tied up in harbour with “propellors fouled with red tape manufactured in Whitehall”.
The trade deal has been criticised for failing to deliver on promises with Mr Carmichael claiming one isles producer had lost £50,000 on a single consignment.
Mr Carmichael said that boats which were able to go to sea were landing their catches in Denmark – an expensive 72 hour round trip which took work away from UK-based shoreside businesses.
“For years this government has promised our fishing industry a sea of opportunity,” he said.
But he questioned why EU businesses were being allowed a grace period in custom checks while their UK counterparts were denied the same.
“Why was there no grace period allowed for our exporters? Will the government engage with the EU as a matter of urgency to make good that most fundamental of errors?”
He highlighted mention on Wednesday by Prime Minister Boris Johnson that compensation would be considered for the fishing sector.
“Who is going to be compensated, for what and by how much? What steps will be taken to help processors, catchers and traders in the meantime?”
Mr Carmichael also raised questions on how quota swaps and other mechanisms that fishermen have previously enjoyed would happen in future.
“This is a shambles of the government’s own making. They’ve got no-one else to blame now,” he said.
“I could convene a virtual round table of all the affected sectors today or tomorrow. Will he meet with me and them to sort this out?”
Mr Eustice said the government was working closely with industry, with regular meetings taking place to “iron out” teething problems.
“They are only teething problems. When people get used to using the paperwork goods will flow normally.”
He said the EU was unwilling to offer a grace period “for reasons known only to the EU”.
Mr Eustice said the UK would be free to change access arrangements after five and a half years.
He added: “Defra have taken all of the information on all of the swaps that have taken place. It is quite possible for us to build those swaps into the annual exchanges.”