Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has today challenged the government to ensure reliability of exports for the fishing industry in the crucial final weeks of the year in the face of threats of trade disruption. Mr Carmichael highlighted the case of a local isles business which lost sales during the severe disruption caused by the UK’s departure from the EU at the beginning of the year, and was unable to obtain promised compensation.
Speaking in the House, Mr Carmichael said:
“The minister is aware that the next few weeks will be the most important weeks of the year for businesses exporting fish to Europe and nothing should be done that would affect confidence in the reliability of supply from these shores. These are the same people who were absolutely hammered as a consequence of the shambolic start to the year. They were promised compensation by Defra at that stage.
“I spoke to one supplier in Shetland who has been told that if he had allowed his fish to rot on the quayside he would have got full compensation, but because he sold it at a significant discount in the domestic market he will get nothing. Surely that is not how this is supposed to work?”
Responding for the government, Iain Stewart MP said:
“I am grateful to him for raising that point. If he cares to share the details of that firm I will certainly follow it up with my colleagues at Defra and make sure that the scheme has been working as it should have been.”
Reacting after the exchange, Mr Carmichael said:
“I will indeed be following up with the minister, but I fear that the same old excuses will be coming from Defra officials as we have had in the past. At the very least the chaos and cack-handed treatment of fishermen and exporters at the start of the year ought to be a warning for ministers of the harm we risk when picking trade fights with our closest partners. Now is the time for pragmatism and cool heads, not constant escalation. Local businesses do not deserve to be caught in the crossfire again.”