‘Brexit Carnage’: Shellfish Trucks Protest in London Over Export Chaos

January 18, 2021 Updated: January 18, 2021

LONDON—More than 20 shellfish trucks parked on roads near the British parliament and Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Downing Street residence on Monday to protest against post-Brexit bureaucracy that has throttled exports to the European Union.

Many fishermen have been unable to export to the EU since catch certificates, health checks, and customs declarations were introduced at the start of this year, delaying their deliveries and prompting European buyers to reject them.

Trucks with slogans such as “Brexit carnage” and “incompetent government destroying shellfish industry” parked metres from Johnson’s 10 Downing Street office in central London.

A lorry drives during a protest
A lorry drives during a protest against post-Brexit bureaucracy that hinders exports to the European Union, at the Parliament Square in London, on Jan. 18, 2021. (Hannah McKay/Reuters)

“We strongly feel the system could potentially collapse,” said Gary Hodgson, a director of Venture Seafoods, which exports live and processed crabs and lobsters to the EU and had trucks parked near Downing Street.

“Prime Minister Boris Johnson needs to be honest with us, with himself, and with the British public about the problems for the industry,” he told Reuters.

He said one operator needed 400 pages of export documentation last week to board a ferry to the EU.

David Rosie, transport manager at DR Collin & Son, which employs 200 people, used to send one or two lorries a night to France carrying live crab, lobster, and langoustine worth around 150,000 pounds ($203,000). He said he has not exported a single box this year.

Fishermen, he said, “lost their livelihoods in the turn of a clock” when Britain left the EU’s orbit on New Year’s Eve.

Under a deal reached last month, British trade with the EU remains free of tariffs and quotas on goods, but fish exporters say their businesses are now threatened by a host of often conflicting demands for documents to export to the EU.

A spokesman for the British government’s environment ministry declined immediate comment. Environment Secretary George Eustice said last week that post-Brexit “teething problems” on fish exports could be resolved shortly.

‘Crazy’

Fishing alone contributes 0.1 percent of Britain’s GDP if processing is included, but for coastal communities of Britain it is a lifeline and a traditional way of life.

The Scotland Food & Drink Association says exporters could be losing more than 1 million pounds in sales a day.

Those participating in the protest said they did not know how long they could survive. Many in coastal communities voted for Brexit but said they had not expected this impact.

Allan Miller, owner of AM Shellfish in Aberdeen, Scotland, said it was impossible to get by with the paperwork or veterinary checks. His deliveries of live brown crab, lobster, and prawns were being delayed, with some of it arriving dead, and thus getting lower prices.

“It’s not a premium Scottish shellfish that we’re shipping any more,” he said.

Miller criticised Johnson’s Brexit trade deal, saying delivery times had doubled from 24 hours.

“Now you’re talking 48 hours to 50 hours. It’s crazy,” he said.

By Guy Faulconbridge and Kate Holton