The Penny Drops: Brexit reality for fishing industry hits Grimsby

3rd February 2020 / United Kingdom
The Penny Drops: Brexit reality for fishing industry hits Grimsby

By TruePublica Editor: In the 2016 referendum, 69.9 per cent of voters in North East Lincolnshire said they wanted to leave the EU, making the area one of the top ten in the country to back Brexit.

Its local paper, the Grimsby Telegraph published an article online in March 2019 asking local people in a poll if they still thought the same way. And then the penny dropped.

That poll was then reversed stating that 70% (of over 10,000 in that poll) then voted to remain in the European Union.


      Poll – Grimsby Telegraph 29th March 2019


Get Brexit done

The last three general elections saw its Labour candidate winning comfortably. This December, Grimsby subsequently then went full-on Brexit and voted to give the Conservatives one of their new northern seats.

And yet – just one month before the December election where Boris Johnson was given the green light to proceed with ‘getting Brexit done’ – the penny was starting to drop in Grimsby.

Grimsby now wanted special concessions for leaving the EU. In fact, as the 6th November Grimsby Telegraph headline said: “Brexit exemption sought for Grimsby seafood trade.” Yes, Grimsby wants its own trade agreement.

The newspaper report starts with these words – “Seafood should be given special free trade status after Brexit to ensure Grimsby’s industry is not damaged.”

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It turns out that, so worried were local business people about actually leaving the EU and support a PM bent on doing so, that they sent, in their words – “Key figures from the wider Lincolnshire food industry to Westminster” to plead for … erm … mercy?


“Grimsby’s seafood processing industry faces a number of Brexit-related issues – from a potential 20 per cent labour shortfall to delays in fresh fish reaching the town’s factories, as well as import fees. The industry and its big name producers, such as Young’s and Icelandic Seachill, imports 90 per cent of the fish it processes for retailers, restaurants and fish and chip shops. Simon Dwyer, a spokesman for cluster group Seafood Grimsby & Humber, called on the Government to look at bestowing free trade status on the ports of Immingham and Grimsby in relation to seafood.”


Yes – Grimsby’s big employers import 90 per cent of their fish from the EU.


Demands of desperation

What the delegation asked for – according to the local newspaper was – that even though Britain will be outside the EU and the customs union after Brexit, the much-feared “customs checks and import tariffs should not exist for seafood coming in or out of the ports in Grimsby”. They even suggested setting up an ‘aquaculture’ business to compete with European imports as a way to offset that 90 per cent mentioned earlier. Not exactly a good bargaining chip to convince the EU to capitulate to their demands.

The delegations spokesperson Mr Dwyer said:


Once we get control of our own economy again, that is one of the things that could be looked at and which could be very beneficial. That emphasises the freedoms and opportunities that could be opening up after Brexit.”


Minister George Eustice, responsible for fisheries did not bother turning up. The government sent a junior transport minister instead. This is probably because the fishing industry is worth 0.1% of Britain’s overall GDP. The government will happily sacrifice the fishing industry in its negotiations for bigger concessions with the EU. To coin a phrase – the government has bigger fish to fry.

Mr Dwyer said. “We have rival processing centres in Bremerhaven (Germany) and Boulogne-sur-Mer (France) where they will be looking to capitalise after Brexit.

Seafood Grimsby & Humber represents 150 businesses which, between them, employ 5,000 people and sells more than £1.5 billion of seafood across the UK.


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