Government puts £23m support fund in place for struggling fishing firms

fish for sale

The government has unveiled details of a £23m fund to support fishing firms as it tries to quell industry anger over Brexit border delays.

The money will help firms whose exports to the EU have fallen sharply since rules changed on 1 January.

Fishing firms say extra paperwork has made it difficult to deliver fresh produce to the EU before it goes off, hammering their businesses.

One trade group called the fund “welcome” but a “sticking plaster”.

On Monday, fish exporters held demonstrations outside government departments in central London, warning their livelihoods were under threat.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson admitted many had experienced “bureaucratic delays [and] difficulties getting their goods through” to buyers on the other side of the channel.

Having left the EU’s customs union and the single market, UK exports are subject to new customs and veterinary checks which have caused problems at the border.

Covid has worsened the issue, with the industry also facing lower market prices and demand from restaurants due to the pandemic.

New border rules

The government said the scheme would be targeted at small and medium-sized fishing businesses who will be able to claim a maximum of £100,000 to cover losses.

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Steve Barclay said: “This further £23m package of support will help our hardworking fishing sector navigate the challenges of the next few months.

“It is vital that no community nor region within our United Kingdom is left behind as we continue to support British jobs and build back better from the coronavirus pandemic.”

In addition to funding, the government will provide further training to help fishing businesses adapt to the new export processes.

Separately, the prime minister committed to providing a further £100m to help modernise UK fishing fleets and the fish processing industry.

Sticking plaster

Donna Fordyce, chief executive of Seafood Scotland, said: “After almost three weeks of voicing their concerns and frustrations, we welcome the fact that the Scottish seafood sector has been heard and action is being taken.

“This [fund] will offer a ray of light to some small and medium-sized companies that have experienced crippling losses over the past few weeks.”

However, while the money was “a much-needed sticking plaster”, she said it would not “completely staunch the wound”.

“The sector still needs a period of grace during which the [new trade] systems must be overhauled so they are fit for purpose.”