UK Government blames EU for ban on live shellfish exports, but promises ‘urgent resolution’

The UK Government has blamed the EU over its ban on live shellfish exports and demanded an “urgent resolution”.

Environment secretary George Eustice has accused Brussels of changing its demands after barriers were placed on some UK shellfish exports.

Responding to an urgent question on Monday from Labour’s shadow environment minister Stephanie Peacock on shellfish exports, the senior Tory minister told the Commons he had written to the EU Commission in a bid to resolve the crisis.

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He said: “Bringing an end to this traditional and valuable trade is unacceptable and I recognise that this is a devastating blow to those businesses that are reliant on the trade.

The UK Government has blamed the EU over its ban on live shellfish exports and demanded an “urgent resolution”.

“While we do not agree at all with the commission’s interpretation of the law, we have had to advise traders that their consignments may very well not be accepted at EU ports for now.

“I am seeking urgent resolution to this problem and I have written to commissioner [Stella] Kyriakides today.

"I have emphasised our high shellfish health status and our systems of control and I have said if it would assist the trade, we could provide reasonable additional assurances to demonstrate shellfish health.

“But that this must also recognise the existing high standards and history of trade between us.”

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Ms Peacock suggested his answer didn’t resolve the problem and was inconsistent.

She said: “Whoever is to blame, the fact is shellfish farmers and fishers are not able to export their most valuable product to their most important market.

“The rule banning imports from third-party countries of untreated shellfish from class B waters has been in place for decades. The Secretary of State claimed in front of the House of Lords environment subcommittee last week that the EU had changed its position on how the rules would affect the UK.

“He had originally told the industry the ban would be lifted in April and has now said it won’t be.”

Responding, Mr Eustice insisted the EU had changed it position and promised to present both letters written to the EU.

The European Commission last month told the British shellfish industry that unpurified oysters, mussels, clams, cockles and scallops caught in most UK waters were banned indefinitely.

It comes after the UK Government set up a "seafood taskforce" to help addressing the concerns of Scotland's fishing industry.

The group will be hosted by the Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland and chaired by UK Government Minister for Scotland David Duguid.

He said: “I want the taskforce to track the export process to identify issues stopping or delaying export and areas of complexity that are not yet well understood.

"We have had extensive consultations with the industry and have been working day and night to resolve issues around the new arrangements for getting our world-class seafood to customers in Europe.”

The SNP’s candidate for Banffshire and Buchan Coast, Karen Adam, labelled Mr Duguid "clueless".

She said: “At a time when the Tories should be focusing on sorting out the challenges being faced by Scotland’s fishing communities, it is having endless discussions when it should be taking tangible action to protect the industry.“It has been more than a month since the end of the transition period and what the Tories arrogantly dismiss as ‘teething problems’ continue for Scottish exporters.”

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