UK Government privately admitted EU was right on shellfish ban

The UK Government privately admitted the EU was right on its ban on UK shellfish exports.

Shellfish exports are at the heart of the row. Picture: SWNS

Barriers that came into force on January 1 have stopped most shellfish that is not ready for human consumption from entering the EU – a decision environment secretary George Eustice has described the ban as "legally wrong" and "unjustified".

However, the Shellfish Association of Great Britain now say the UK Government has “changed” its position and had previously claimed the EU’s position was correct.

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In a letter seen by PoliticsHome, the UK's leading trade body wrote to members saying: "We have now received another update from DEFRA regarding the export of live-bivalve molluscs.

The UK Government privately admitted the EU was right on its ban on UK shellfish exports.

"All along they have told us that they believe the trade in class B animals is legal and that the regulation supports this. They have now changed this position.

"They now say that they believe on balance that the EU view, that the trade is not legal, is in fact correct.

“This is in complete contrast to everything they have told us so far.”

Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrats' home affairs spokesperson, is now calling on Mr Eustice to resign.

He said: “Yesterday George Eustice made a statement in Parliament blaming everyone else – today he has thrown in the towel. The seafood industries can no longer have confidence in anything he says.

"He should step aside and let somebody else fix this mess. It is difficult to see how he can remain in his job after this fiasco.”

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Luke Pollard, Labour's shadow environment secretary, said: "Just yesterday the government sent a letter to the EU blaming them for the block on shellfish fishers exporting their catch.

"The shellfish industry is on the verge of collapse unless something is done fast.

"Instead of shifting the blame, ministers should be looking to sort the problem — are they incompetent or do they simply not care?"

A DEFRA spokesperson insisted the government's position had not changed.

They said: "We continue to believe that our interpretation of the law and the EU’s original interpretation is correct and that the trade should be able to continue for all relevant molluscs from April.

"And there is no reason for a gap at all for molluscs from aquaculture."

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