UK Government minister: Brexit taskforce for fishing industry has slashed red tape

A UK Government taskforce set up to assist the fishing industry in the Brexit transition still has “significant hurdles” to overcome and needs to be continued, an industry body has warned.

Jimmy Buchan, chief executive of the Scottish Seafood Association, said the body, which is due to be disbanded this month, needs to be continued to tackle problems faced especially by small companies struggling to navigate exports since Britain left the European Union.

However, David Duguid, UK Government Minister in Scotland, whose portfolio includes fishing, said the organisation had successfully helped small firms to navigate new customs rules and had slashed red tape around supplier declarations to such an extent they now only need to be made once a month, rather than for every consignment.

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Mr Buchan said he believed although there was scope to reduce the regularity of taskforce meetings, the group had not solved all problems faced by seafood firms – particularly for smaller companies without dedicated staff to tackle bureaucracy.

Scottish Seafood Association chief executive Jimmy Buchan, pictured here with the Duke of Rothesay during a visit to Peterhead fish market in 2018, wants the taskforce to continue

He said: “There are still significant hurdles and issues to be overcome and therefore I think it’s in best interest of the stakeholders that we keep these officials and ministers in the room and hold their feet to the fire.

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"As far as I'm concerned, we've still got much, much work to do, and therefore I feel it’s letting them off the hook. And I want them to be meeting, less frequently. But still, with the main thrust of that being to circumnavigate the issue that is crippling industry.”

He added: "We’ve got an issue with small companies who want to export, but just find the burden too costly.”

Writing in Scotland on Sunday, Mr Duguid, MP for Banff and Buchan, said the taskforce had solved many of the medium term issues for companies.

He said: “The taskforce was created to unpick medium-term issues. UK Government worked in partnership with the Scottish Government; helped arrange for HMRC to embed staff with firms to get customs declarations in order. We made additional veterinary staff available to speed the issuing of export health certificates, which the EU now requires accompany each load.

“Paperwork was raised time and again as an issue for exporters, even though the insistence on physical forms comes from the EU.

"Red tape around supplier declarations, a key part of the export process, has been cut such that they now need to be made on a monthly basis rather than for every single consignment.”

The final meeting for the taskforce should have taken place on Friday, but had been delayed. However, Mr Duguid said a more “informal” organisation was due to be set up to continue discussions with the industry.

Mr Duguid added: “A less formal structure means our ongoing, detailed, discussions can be precisely tailored and we're talking to the industry about what form they'd like our future discussions to take.”

He said it was “disappointing” the UK Government could not agree fishing opportunities with Norway for this year and added that discussions would start again in the autumn.

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