The head of industry body Scotland Food & Drink has flagged the sector’s anger over the UK Government’s dismissal of Brexit-related woes for exporters as “teething problems”.
Following reports of protests by the seafood sector in Westminster this morning over Brexit chaos, James Withers, chief executive of Scotland Food & Drink, said: “Anger amongst Scotland’s seafood exporters has been simmering for two weeks now as the door to their most important market has been slammed shut. Many now fear for their survival. That anger has been stoked by a number UK ministers dismissing this crisis as ‘teething problems’ or, worse still, trying to make jokes about it.
“It is five days since the Prime Minister promised compensation and nothing has happened. In fact, other members of Cabinet seem to have been walking away from that commitment.”
He added: “Compensation is now critical. However, that will only buy a little time. We desperately need to press pause on the new bureaucratic checks on exports. We need time to get systems properly built as they keep falling down – as happened again over the weekend.
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“The UK Government has already paused checks on EU imports until July 2021 and we need the same for goods going in the opposite direction, into the EU. That requires immediate dialogue with the European Commission. All our warnings that systems weren’t ready have sadly proven true and it is businesses now paying the heavy price for complacency and failure to act on our warnings. The Government’s own watchdog, the National Audit Office, gave the same warning that was not acted upon. Action now is critical to try and rescue a desperate situation for many.”
The “teething problems” remark came from Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.
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Mr Raab said: “Of course, we’ve always said, as we leave the transition period, and with a deal, and even more if we haven’t had a deal, there will be some teething problems.
“We’re very focused on working with all the different sectors, including the fishing industry to resolve any of these teething problems.”