Scots angered by fishy Brexit export business
British food minister says export problems are ‘only teething issues’
London — Britain believes it can resolve post-Brexit “teething issues” that have disrupted exports of Scottish fish to the EU, a minister said on Thursday, in comments that stoked tension with Scotland’s largest political party.
Since Britain completed its journey out of the EU at the end of 2020, Scottish fish companies have seen some of their exports rejected by several nations in the bloc after new customs demands delayed the arrival of their produce. Some businesses have said they face ruin.
Disruption, and comment by various ministers playing down the issue, have angered Scottish National Party (SNP) legislators who never supported Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit project and want to press on with a second independence vote.
Trying to ease concern, food minister George Eustice told parliament his staff had held meetings with Dutch, French and Irish officials to try to “iron out some of these teething problems”.
“They are only teething problems,” he said. “When people get used to using the paperwork goods will flow.”
Eustice said that with no grace period to introduce the rules the industry was having to adapt to them in real time, dealing with such issues as what colour ink can be used to fill in forms.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, Conservative Party leader of the lower house of parliament, ent said the fish were happier being British.
“The key is that we’ve got our fish back. They’re British fish and they’re better and happier fish for it,” he told parliament.
The comments fuelled anger in the SNP, which has called for compensation and says the disruption underlines that Scotland would be better off as an independent nation.
Scots voted against breaking away from the UK by 55% to 45% in a referendum in 2014 but the country favoured remaining in the EU in the UK’s 2016 Brexit poll.
A report on an opinion poll published on Thursday said it was found that the SNP is on course to win a record majority in elections for Scotland’s devolved parliament in May. This would signal a new push for independence by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
But a spokesperson for Johnson, who has repeatedly refused to grant Scotland another vote on the issue, said the government was looking at ways to compensate those affected by what he described as “temporary issues”.
The government says it has handed the Scottish government almost £200m to help minimise any disruption, which ministers say they had flagged for months before Britain ended a transition period with the EU on December 31.
Asked by an MP what the government would do about the disruption, trade minister Liz Truss told the SNP to ask what their party’s own leader Sturgeon had done to help companies.
“Two hundred million pounds was given to the Scottish government to prepare to minimise this disruption so I suggest he (the MP) takes up that issue with Nicola Sturgeon to know how that money is being spent to help Scottish exporters.”
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