My contribution to the Statement on UK Shellfish Exports, 8 February 2020

John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con): Will the Secretary of State work with fish and general food retailers to promote and sell more of our great fish and other food products to domestic consumers? Will that in mind, will he urgently make grants available to expand cleansing facilities for shellfish, because we will need them for the domestic market?

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
(George Eustice): I very much agree with my right hon. Friend. It is important that we build domestic demand. Indeed, many fish processors say that demand in the European Union is flat anyway because of the coronavirus and the lockdown, while UK retail demand remains quite buoyant for some species, although sadly not for all—in particular, the shellfish sector is quite reliant on export trade.

He is right that we should do more to promote fish, and we are working on a project with Seafish that the Government will co-fund to help build demand in exactly the way he outlines.

65 Comments

  1. Iain Moore
    February 9, 2021

    I have heard a great deal about class A & B waters, and how molluscs from class B have to be cleansed, this was previously done in Holland , the problem being that the EU is now cutting up rough, but I have heard nothing about the Government saying…’ alright the lets build the necessary facilities’.. which would bring jobs back to the UK, as well as benefiting from selling a premium product to the EU.

    1. Secretaria
      February 9, 2021

      The cost appears to be about £1,000,000 per plant. Considering what government has spent in compensation for a lack of commercial activity. The sums involved are minuscule to clean up class B Shellfish, but be aware that they require fast shipment after process because they deteriorate faster.

      1. Secretaria
        February 9, 2021

        Possibly not having such plants in the U.K. is another reason we in the U.K. rarely see it on our “hens teeth” fish counters.

        1. MiC
          February 9, 2021

          You’d have hoped that those connected with the industry might have thought this through and then made recommendations as to how people should have voted in the referendum really, wouldn’t you?

          “Oo-er”, they appear to be saying.

          1. Denis Cooper
            February 10, 2021

            You are being unrealistic if you expect that each and every economic activity making a miniscule contribution to the economy will be thoroughly discussed during a national referendum campaign. To explain that for you, in 2019 UK GDP was £2169 billion, and according to the Guardian report these exports of live bivalve molluscs to the EU were worth about £12 million a year; divide the second by the first and the answer is that this business constitutes less than 0.0006% of the UK economy. But you are not the only EU advocate to latch onto an example which is too negligible even to warrant the adjective “trivial”; a chap called Alex Orr had a letter in the Daily Telegraph about exports of seed potatoes which were worth £24 million a year, in that case 0.0012% of GDP.

      2. Paul G
        February 10, 2021

        Cost need not be £1M per plant. Depends hugely on scale. Big businesses, big scale might cost something of that order, but there are already plenty of small-scale plants operated in UK by small-scale fishermen which cost a mere fraction of that.

    2. a-tracy
      February 9, 2021

      George Eustice said in an oral statement to parliament on gov.uk website that the EU in Sept 2019 advised in writing that trade in live bivalve molluscs to the EU from the UK Class B production waters which have not been through purification or have not cleared testing could continue. They changed their mind recently and the ‘Export Health Certificate’ is now not available until April 2021 at the earliest.

      This also affects UK to Northern Ireland movements. Apparently, the EU have allowed exports from Scotland but not Wales and SW England, many businesses in the EU have invested in depuration equipment, perhaps there is a primary trade block because of reduced orders to only process those fished on EU vessels. I wonder if we have just one company with depuration equipment in England/Wales?

      1. Paul G
        February 10, 2021

        There are plenty of small scale mussel fishermen with the purification equipment already supplying the domestic UK market. The big-scale sales are to Europe. Problem is that the “purification” process is stressful and exhausting for the animals (cockle, mussels, and oysters) as they are filtering water without actually getting any significant food. This shortens their shelf-life after “purification”. It is why the “purification” for bivalve shellfish destined for mainland European sales is done on closer to the final market, after the export transpport.

    3. Ian Wragg
      February 9, 2021

      Correct,
      This is precisely the type of industry that can be onshore.
      We import shellfish from South America and Canada plus our own species from the EU.
      Our fishermen have to make their products available for sale here in the UK.

    4. Hope
      February 9, 2021

      I cannot but help to think this was a very badly negotiated servitude agreement or alternatively Johnson capitulated on everything at the end.

      How come Useless Eustice was not up on his brief for likely/predictable loopholes and shinangans with prepared responses? Look at his pathetic reply to JR!

      JR has now claimed several times he had assurances, ministers make similar claims. It sounds a load of hogwash to me to shirk responsibility. So has the penny now dropped JR you were badly fobbed off or lied to?

      Johnson and ministers publicly said it was a good deal for fisheries! JR are you prepared to stake your career on the truthfulness of this?

      Where are the reciprocal terms to prevent EU making unilateral decisions? No list of possible courses for govt to take by Useless, just accepting what themEU has done! Suggest you all listen and read what Widdecombe says on the subject- a proper conservative. She also has the measure of May and Johnson.

      reply I did not vote for the deal

    5. Hope
      February 9, 2021

      JR, OT slightly but related. JD Sports announced it will open a warehouse in EU because of red tape exporting there costing the firm millions! He openly said if not for the red tape the warehouse and 1,000 jobs would be here!

      Has the govt realised yet this is a deliberate ploy by the EU to relocate jobs in the EU because U.K. will accept all exports here but not the other way around.

      1. Peter Grant
        February 10, 2021

        Hope, you can look forward to a lot more instances of the EU looking after the EU, and doing down the UK. Two can play at “taking back control” and the UK, so much smaller than the EU, is in a desperately weak position now. But you voted for it, no whining as the UK jobless total rises, you voted for it

  2. Secretaria
    February 9, 2021

    I praise your efforts, but I see no way you can persuade the great British public to start eating oysters,clams and spider crabs when many great chefs have had little impact. Take to You Tube and view Japanese fish markets. One stall in any of their markets has more appeal than what is on offer in my home town. Tesco shut for fresh fish, and no fresh shellfish. Only one fishmonger and he is well out of town and limited. Reason, the GBP have little interest. They would not know, or want to know, what to do with any of it were it free.

    The fishermen of Devon,Cornwall, and Western Scotland need to start selling in Japan via our empty aircraft. From what I have seen them appear to retail a Spider Crab for yen4000 which is about £27.00. So get out there and do some selling, BOT take note.

    1. Denis Cooper
      February 9, 2021

      Or “resume eating oysters”, as they were once consumed in vast quantities by poorer Britons.

      1. MiC
        February 9, 2021

        They won’t be willing to pay remotely what the Continentals pay for them.

        Do you understand how “trade” works?

        1. Denis Cooper
          February 10, 2021

          I think so. We sell the Continentals some stuff, and they sell us a lot more stuff back, and then people like you say how lucky we are to be able to run a massive trade deficit with them.

  3. DOM
    February 9, 2021

    Your party’s to blame. Stop pretending you’re on the side of this nation and its industries. If it was left up to Tory MPs we’d still be in the EU

    I like Mr Redwood but questions in the Commons do not change the course of history

    1. Hope
      February 10, 2021

      The Fake Tory party voted for this. Eustice claimed the fisheries was a good deal. What does he think a bad one looks like? Based on his judgement he should be toast.

      Vaccination roll out so good Govt ministers say yesterday do not book summer holidays!

  4. formula57
    February 9, 2021

    “(George Eustice): I very much agree with my right hon. Friend.” – so yet another Minister who professes agreement with what you propose! If so many agree, why is the Government not doing very much better?

    1. Dennis
      February 9, 2021

      Good question but as usual no reply from JR – doesn’t want to spill the beans perhaps.

  5. Grey Friar
    February 9, 2021

    The EU market of 400 million consumers is now shut off thanks to Boris’s ‘great’ deal, but you think we can make up for that loss by selling the stuff to a market of just 60 million consumers in the UK. I know Brexit is a fantasy world but you’re not even bothering to think about basic arithmetic now. Sheer wild desperation and panic, Mr Redwood

    1. Denis Cooper
      February 9, 2021

      Oh, I reckon that between us we could scrape together £12 million a year to buy the live bivalve molluscs that the EU is turning away. Didn’t you read it in your Guardian last Tuesday? “The market for such shellfish is a small and specialist one, valued at less than £12m a year”. It would need each adult to find about 20p a year.

  6. BW
    February 9, 2021

    More punishment from the EU. It’s the same as a school playground. If we can’t have the fish then you can’t. We all know bullies keep coming back if you don’t fight back.
    Let’s ban VW until their cars until undergo a UK emissions test dream up masses of paperwork as they have form on falsifying their records.
    Our politicians need to wake up and understand that “our friend in the EU” seek the destruction of the U.K. as it represent the competition that they cannot allow under ANY circumstances.
    After four years of hot air, start acting. Agreement or not. There is a trade war and it is coming unchallenged from the EU. If I am frustrated just imagine the fishermen.

    1. Peter Grant
      February 10, 2021

      If we ban VW all that happens is that Brits have to pay more for their cars

      1. Hope
        February 10, 2021

        No, it means Germany sells far fewer cars and gets much higher unemployment.

  7. Peter
    February 9, 2021

    I have noticed that a large UK supermarket which offers discounts on certain fish on Fridays had a poor stock of fish in one of their stores and a completely unmanned fish counter in another (the counter seemed to be no longer in operation).

    UK independent fish mongers had decent stocks so did fishmongers operating in markets.

    So I don’t know if there are issues with domestic fish supplies.

    Increasing domestic demand is another issue entirely. The cost of fish is one issue. Another is the willingness of consumers to add more fish to their food purchases.

  8. London Nick
    February 9, 2021

    The FIRST thing we need to do is RETALIATE and stop all EU shellfish from entering the UK. Will this weak, cowardly and anti-British government do that? Of course not. That would involve standing up to the EU and fighting them, instead of acting like a doormat to be walked over.

    If we stopped all EU shellfish from entering the UK there would be an ample market for our home produce. And if we need to export this then the govenment should fund cleansing, processing and freezing facilities, so we could export to the whole world and not be dependent on an EU that is determined to destroy us … with the complicity of our own quisling prime minister, of course.

  9. Denis Cooper
    February 9, 2021

    But we are told that British people don’t want to eat the kinds of fish that are caught in British waters, so they have to be swapped for fish caught in EU waters … how times have changed from when I were a boy, or perhaps this is just another load of anti-Brexit propaganda which the government should be actively showing up as the pro-EU twaddle that it is.

  10. Fedupsoutherner
    February 9, 2021

    What a joke John. We want clean fish to sell and to eat but from what I see that is not going to happen. Joanna Lumley has started a campaign to stop all the old munitions and bombs from the last wars being blown up in the sea for wind turbines to be installed. Apparently this is going on very frequently and the damage to dolphins and whales and the amount of small fish killed in this process is vast. There is a much less damaging way of dealing with all of this which is no more expensive so why isn’t it being done? The debris from blowing up the old bombs etc is then spread all along the damaged sea bed for the fish to consume and eventually get into the human food chain. As I have always said, it’s not just climate change that might be causing problems. It’s our behaviour and the destructive ways in which we deal with things. I am disgusted. Where are the environmentalists in all of this debacle? Do they all think wind turbines are a great idea?

  11. Jim
    February 9, 2021

    Even the most junior tea-person at the Treasury could have seen that supermarkets have been closing down fresh fish counters. The British find fresh fish expensive and the British are not big consumers of whelks, oysters, winkles or even lobsters and crabs. The French are.

    Just ask any house-person why fish pie is not more popular – answer it’s expensive (but nice). We are getting poorer by the week Sir John.

    1. Peter
      February 9, 2021

      Sea food used to be popular London when I was a child. I remember winkles being eaten with a pin and sea food stalls outside pubs. A chap used to come around one of the pubs after football matches until very recently. However, the stalls were disappearing – Tubby Isaacs in the East End is one notable example.

      That said, ethnic minorities can eat large quantities of fish as evidenced by the number of fishmongers catering for them in Deptford.

      Fish can also be successfully promoted for example monkfish. At one time it was difficult to sell but feature it on the telly and it is now, bizarrely, more expensive than Dover Sole.

    2. Secretaria
      February 9, 2021

      Well British fish is expensive for the British. Probably too many taking a cut between the fishermen and the plate. British fish and shellfish is not so expensive and is readily available when you buy it in Spain. Part of the differential is the sheer scale of the business operation in Spain compared to that in the U.K. Prawns ( Langostinos/Gambas ) imported from South America and the Far East , fresh frozen and in their shells cost €9.25/ Kg or £8.11 at today’s rate. They are around 6inches in length. Their miserable children cost £22.00 Kg in a U.K. supermarket. Undoubtedly we are being ripped off , which is part of the explanation for poor sales and availability in the U.K.

      1. a-tracy
        February 9, 2021

        Actually Secretaria we should ask Lidl to explain this price difference. Our newspapers seem very unwilling to ask more questions. Just why is British fish so expensive? I eat a lot of fish everything from cod, lemon sole, sea bass, salmon, trout, king prawns, scallops. I even like cockles and mussels which seems unusual for Brits according to people here.

        Are there problems with cars, vans, wine, French cheese, Italian pasta or is all of this difficult trade just contra UK?

  12. Ian
    February 9, 2021

    Excellent, let’s do just that, there are millions here who would love to be introduced to our shellfish probably never tried it there is a fortune to be made it should be sold everywhere in the world, the hell with our friends over the English Channel ,there choice

  13. London Nick
    February 9, 2021

    On the subject of fisheries, why doesn’t the UK take EXCLUSIVE control of the fishing of the fabulous bluefin tuna that have returned in large numbers to British waters? We voted to “Take Back Control”. We voted to be independent. The authorisation and control of bluefin tuna fishing in British waters should be done by the BRITISH government – not by the EU or by ICCAT (the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas). These are BRITISH tunas in BRITISH waters. They are extremely valuable and would provide a HUGE boost for British fishermen. Why does the British government keep betraying the British people???

  14. weary eye
    February 9, 2021

    The UK’s leading trade body for the shellfish industry told its members that the government privately accepted that the European Union’s ban on UK shellfish exports was correct, PoliticsHome can reveal.
    Publicly, Environment Secretary George Eustice has described the ban as “legally wrong” and “unjustified”.

    The new barriers, which came into force on January 1, stopped most shellfish that are not ready for human consumption from entering the EU, where previously they were sent to Europe and purified there before going to restaurants, bars and supermarkets.

    Eustice yesterday wrote to the European Commission’s Stella Kyriakides expressing frustration with the bloc’s third country rules for unpurified mussels, clams, scallops, and cockles — known together as live-bivalve molluscs — caught in Britain’s class B waters, which effectively bans the trade of shellfish from the UK to the EU. He described the rules as having no “scientific or technical justification”.

    However, the Shellfish Association of Great Britain, which represents the majority of shellfish traders in the UK, yesterday wrote to members claiming that in private the government had now “changed this position” and had said that the EU’s position “is correct”.

    Comment Sir John?

    Reply I can only report what the government tells us on this.

    1. Grey Friar
      February 9, 2021

      It’s becoming very familiar. There’s a disastrous collapse in our exports, putting lots of Brits out of a job. The government says, it’s the EU’s fault. Someone takes 5 minutes to check, and says no, it’s the logical consequence of Brexit and exactly what Boris’s deal says. Come on guys, these massive daily hits to our economy, it’s what you voted for, right? Or did you think we’d leave the EU but nothing would change?

      1. Denis Cooper
        February 10, 2021

        It took me less than 5 minutes to check and find out – from the Guardian – that this is basically a non-story.

        Have you no sense of perspective? £12 million, in the context of an economy worth £2169 billion in 2019?

        Do you even know the difference between a million and a billion?

      2. Fred.H
        February 11, 2021

        Well at least the world can see the abusive relationship for what it was. And Boris like the beaten wife in front of the police keeps saying ‘my friend’.

  15. Scorpio
    February 9, 2021

    The supermarkets killed off the independant fishmongers and butchers. They then closed down their fresh produce counters and drastically reduced the range of frozen and prepared foods.
    The British people want to eat British fish and meat but the supermarkets do not appear to want to supply us.
    Is it any wonder that both sectors say that they are suffering?

    1. Derek
      February 9, 2021

      They may have brought about the demise of the small fishmongers and butchers but both our Tesco Extra and Morrisons have a huge fresh fish counter as well as an even bigger fresh meat booth complete with butchers taken on when their own shops closed.

    2. Denis Cooper
      February 9, 2021

      They did. When I was at school there was a fishmonger and a baker and a butcher just down the road, and quite often I was tasked with walking down for some simpler purchases such as a loaf and sausages or herrings. And maybe even a pint of winkles or shrimps, that did not need a lot of shopping skill.

  16. Derek
    February 9, 2021

    It’s becoming very, very irritating that Brussels still think the run this country. Is it not time to read the ‘riot act’ to demonstrate our displeasure?
    I’m sorry to say, our calm British way does not mean much to those within the EU Commission nor to their vast band of self-serving civil servants. In fact I believe they now treat our calm politeness as a weakness to be exploited in much the same way as do many aggressive oriental Nations.
    We must demonstrate very clearly that we will no longer accept such obfuscation from the Brussel regime and will take, if necessary, firm steps to circumvent them. With the RoTW knocking at our door we have nothing to lose by turning away from those who rule and run the EU.

  17. Tabulazero
    February 9, 2021

    Give us your best recipe with bivalve mollusks, Sir John

  18. Secretaria
    February 9, 2021

    Price of Jumbo Tiger King Prawns on the U.K. internet £69.95 /Kg (5 prawns) . Similar prawns in Lidl in Benidorm just prior to Christmas €16.95 Kg (7 prawns). Need I say more.

    1. a-tracy
      February 9, 2021

      No, no more need be said. We are taken for mugs.

  19. jon livesey
    February 9, 2021

    It isn’t smart to be seen constantly asking the EU for something, nor is it to only aim at restoring the export trade status quo ante. The Government should remind the EU that everything they import from the UK is a national resource and can be redirected to other markets. If they play arbitrary games with non-tariff barriers to harm one industry, then other exports from the UK that they really want may become unavailable.

    Stop thinking in terms of permission and start thinking about twisting arms.

  20. Iain gill
    February 9, 2021

    I don’t know why you bother John, we have a CINO government, conservative in name only.

    1. Mike Wilson
      February 9, 2021

      An excellent acronym.

    2. Fred.H
      February 11, 2021

      Sir John appears to think this Conservative (sic) dictatorship will be reborn like the phoenix and the good old times of early Thatcher will return… oh dear!

  21. The Prangwizard
    February 9, 2021

    It’s clear that ‘Boris’ and his government lives in fear of the EU and others. He waived through a weak surrender deal not being bothered with details and not daring to challenge problems.

    Now he dare not do anything as the EU has so much hold over us in energy supply, ownership of major companies and infrastructure and which they are using aganist us.

    Arrogant, gutless and naive Tories have always betrayed us.

    1. Jackie
      February 9, 2021

      Not to mention about Services we need like for banking finance and Insurance…not even being discussed yet?

    2. Denis Cooper
      February 10, 2021

      I speculate that he was desperate to get the EU to agree to the “Canada style” free trade deal to which he had repeatedly committed himself, but without ever having made any assessment of its potential benefit to the UK economy. Which in truth will be minimal, and as for preventing trade friction that is not the primary job of a free trade deal removing tariffs but not addressing non-tariff barriers – as we can now see.

  22. glen cullen
    February 9, 2021

    Took the risk of arrest today walking up and down my local high street, so brought tea bags in case I was questioned by the police and asked if my venture out was essential

    It’s a fashionable high street with some 100 outlets with a mix of pubs and small restaurants – only 2 shops open and with 4 restaurants and 2 retail outlets with new for-sale signs…the rest all closed

    …..and the local fishmonger is long dead and gone

    This government needs to kick start the economy and our high street in double quick time

    1. No Longer Anonymous
      February 9, 2021

      Same with my town. Vibrant and thriving pre CV-19 – now devastated.

      This is like nothing I’ve seen before. As though someone flick off a switch.

    2. graham1946
      February 10, 2021

      Another Covid anomally. Today on local radio I hear a burger van has bee shut down by the police for ‘allowing people to not social distance’ by virtue of selling food and drink. However, in the high street, the large chains of food and coffee shops can sell takeaways without being molested. Why is this being allowed? Are the police the makers of law now? The police state is another step nearer.

      1. glen cullen
        February 10, 2021

        ”If the law is an ass” then the people will treat it likewise

  23. Mike Wilson
    February 9, 2021

    Politicians say some weird things.

    It is important we build domestic demand. (for fish)

    So, it is now this nutty government’s job to get us all to buy more fish. What is wrong with you?

  24. Jackie
    February 9, 2021

    Now we’re threatened with ten years in jail for telling a lie.. and that cost comes at 300,000 per year multiplied by ten.. say three millionPounds total.. great.. and who is going to pay.. great

    1. graham1946
      February 10, 2021

      Jail for lying? Westminster will soon be empty.

  25. Original Richard
    February 10, 2021

    The posters on this site who believe the UK should be ruled by alien bureaucrats whom we did not elect and cannot remove told us often that fishing was unimportant.

    Now that the EU has banned the importation of a small part of this business it has become for them a big issue and we should have stayed in the EU to prevent us being bullied by the “much bigger than us” EU.

    However, we were always bullied by the EU as evidenced by our £100bn/YEAR trading deficit. The difference is now that we have left the bullying has become transparent.

    The government should simply invest in our own depuration plant and if they cannot get the supermarkets to take the finished product to sell at commercial prices, do a deal with Amazon, who I believe are keen to get into the food business, and we can buy our bi-valve molluscs from them online.

  26. Original Richard
    February 10, 2021

    Brexit is bringing two interconnected issues to light.

    Firstly that we can and should be producing and buying more of our own home grown food.

    Secondly that so much of the UK/EU trade is the unnecessary shipment of both finished and unfinished goods back and forth between the UK and the EU. Not just food shipments but also car parts.

    If Brexit brings about fewer transport miles/channel crossings then the environment will benefit.

  27. Denis Cooper
    February 10, 2021

    Here is Richard North today, trying to pick his way through the EU regulatory minefield which has afflicted this massive sector of our economy, worth a good 0.0006% of GDP:

    http://www.eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=87879

    “Brexit: shellfish recap”

    I do not guarantee that he has it right, I just accept that he usually has a very good grip on such matters.

  28. Diane
    February 10, 2021

    A little off main topic but I hope to hear soon what if anything the government & DEFRA is planning to do regarding the healthy and increasing numbers of Blue Fin Tuna in our western coastal waters now we are outside the EU and I believe members of the regulatory body. It seems the government needs to act now and potentially, with a willingness and careful management, open up new opportunities for fishermen ( no apology ) including the stopping of supertrawlers wiping out bait fish. There is an interesting & informative piece about this on Nigel Farage’s website presently.
    Many people would eat more fresh fish if available more widely but if you are catering for a family of four or five for example, the cost is in many cases prohibitive. Our local supermarket closed its fresh fish counter last year and still not reopened. Have access to a supplier though a couple of days a week who has some UK fish. I also purchase smoked fish on line from East Anglia. Last fish from the supermarket was vacuum packed sea bass and sea bream, usually from Turkey & Greece.

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