Brexit LIVE: EU hits UK with devastating trade ban – Brexiteer slams ‘unacceptable’ change
Brexit: Expert reveals ‘problem’ with exporting fish to EU
Environment Secretary George Eustice said Brussels had “changed its position in recent weeks” – accusing the EU of pulling the rug from under the UK and its shellfish industry. He admitted there had been concerns over trade in live bivalve molluscs to the EU coming from UK Class B production waters, which have not been through purification or have not cleared testing. But Mr Eustice highlighted how, in September 2019, the European Commission advised the UK the trade could continue, and continued to work with the industry on that basis.
He said the EU had only warned “that for one small part of the industry – wild harvested molluscs from Class B waters – there would need to be a pause while we awaited a new Export Health Certificate to become available in April but that in line with the guidance from the EU trade in the molluscs from farms could continue uninterrupted”.
He said the situation had since turned on its head, with the range of banned products now much bigger.
Mr Eustice said Britain still believed its “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”.
He added: “There is no reason for a gap at all for molluscs from aquaculture.”
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The Environment told the House of Commons this week: “Last week, the Commission gave us sight of instructions they had sent to all Member States on 3 February stating that any imports into the EU from the UK of Live Bivalve Molluscs for purification from Class B waters, such as the sea around Wales and the South West of England, are not permitted.
“Bringing an end to this traditional and valuable trade is unacceptable.
“I recognise this is a devastating blow to those business that are reliant on the trade. While we do not agree 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 Kyriakides today. I have emphasised our high shellfish health status and our systems of control.
“I have said, if it would assist the trade, we could provide reasonable additional reassurances to demonstrate shellfish health, but this must recognise the existing high standards and history of trade between us.
“It is in the EU’s interests to restore this trade; many businesses in the EU have invested in depuration equipment and are configured around managing the export of molluscs from Class B waters.
“We have met the industry several times and they are of course extremely concerned. We are working well with the Shellfish Association of Great Britain who are taking up the issue in meetings with European counterparts.”
The molluscs affected include mussels, oysters, clams and cockles, while scallop exports may instead undergo pre-export testing.
The issue does not impact on molluscs landed in Northern Ireland.
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8.15am update: Brussels set to REJECT Northern Ireland grace period extension in bitter Brexit row
Brussels has been tipped to reject the UK’s request for a two year extension to Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit trade grace period.
After the UK left the EU at the start of the year, Northern Ireland was given a three month grace period where new customs processes from Great Britain do not apply.
British and European officials have been holding crunch talks in a bid to increase the post-Brexit grace period, but cannot agree on the length of the extension.
Whitehall and EU officials have confirmed the European Commission will not agree to a two year extension of the Northern Ireland grace period.
Instead the Commission will likely only agree to a three to six-month extension to the relaxed rules for Great Britain.
EU officials have also accused the UK of using the coronavirus vaccine row to force a renegotiation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The EU issued export controls on coronavirus vaccines going into Northern Ireland through Article 16 of the protocol, effectively creating a hard border, before backing down due to outrage from Irish and British officials.
Jeffrey Donaldson, the DUP’s Westminster leader, told The Telegraph he was “not surprised” by the EU’s “meagre response”.
7.50am update: Eustice admits to ‘one or two’ teething issues on fishing
The UK has experienced “one or two teething issues” in exporting fish to the EU following Brexit, Environmental Secretary George Eustice has admitted.
These early problems have largely revolved around small fishing firms failing to export their goods to Europe after the introduction of catch and health certificates, customs declarations and higher transport costs that has made trade too expensive and too slow for EU buyers.
Mr Eustice told Times Radio: “The border flows have actually been for most sectors very good,” Environment Secretary George Eustice told Times Radio.
“We have had one or two teething issues on fisheries.”
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