Fishing minister Victoria Prentis said the EU has “no justification” for banning the import of shellfish caught in UK waters. Since the end of the transition period at the end of last year, fishing communities have been hit with an unexpected ban on some exports.
Under EU rules, shellfish and other seafood caught in “grade B” waters and lower must go through purification before they can be imported into the bloc.
Only those landed in the cleanest “class A” waters can be transported straight to the bloc.
While Britain was a member state of the EU, purification could take place anywhere within the bloc, but now the catch must go through the process before being transported to the continent.
Ms Prentis told the Commons this morning: “There’s no justification for the European Commission to ban our molluscs from class B waters.
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“We’re seeking an urgent resolution to this dispute.
“We’re willing to provide additional reassurances but ask that they recognise the existing high standards and long history of trade between us.”
The UK has said it was told the ban on exports would be temporary and was sue to end on April 21 when new animal health legislation was introduced by Brussels.
But in January the EU told the seafood industry the ban was indefinite.
In a letter, the Commission said it was “strictly forbidden for bivalve molluscs originating from third countries, such as UK”.
It added: “Molluscs accompanied by an aquaculture certificate, wild or from aquaculture, cannot in any case reach a depuration centre in the EU.”
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“This has to be sorted at government-to-government level and our understanding is that talks are under way, but so far without producing a satisfactory outcome.”
There are fears the £12million industry could be virtually wiped out if a solution is not found.
Shadow environment secretary Luke Pollard has accused the Government of “betraying” the industry and has demanded the Government apologise.
He said this morning: “Fishing boats are tied up, fish exporters are tied up with red tape.
“Fishing was promised a sea of opportunity but the reality is many fishing businesses are on the verge of collapse. Much of the so-called extra fish may not even exist or be able to be caught by British boats.
“The fishing industry feels betrayed.”
He added “net is closing in” on the Government over the issue.
“Fishing has lost trust and confidence in the actions of Defra for all the broken promises,” he told MPs.