Grimsby status as home of traditional smoked fish under threat, warn MPs

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 13 Sep 2017

Grimsby’s status as the home of traditionally smoked fish could be at risk after Brexit, the leader of the Liberal Democrats has warned.

Vince Cable accused the Government of not doing enough to protect Britain’s protected foods, such as traditional Grimsby smoked fish, from being rivalled by “cheap foreign imitations” after Brexit.

The European Union has been working out how to ensure famous continental brand’s, such as French Champagne, are safe from British competition after the UK’s exit.

But Mr Cable said the town’s smokers had not been given the same guarantees by the Conservative administration, despite the producers “making a very significant contribution to the British economy”.

Melanie Onn, the town’s MP, said she had raised the issue with Brexit Secretary David Davis and would be pressing for a Brexit trade deal which protected Grimsby’s traditional smokers.

The Fishwife traditional fishmongers in Cleethorpe Road, Grimsby

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), defines traditional Grimsby smoked fish “as fillets of cod and haddock, weighing between 200 and 700 grams, which have been cold smoked in accordance with the traditional method and within a defined geographical area around Grimsby”.

Smokers are specially trained in the traditional method, and both the access to fresh fish from the Grimsby Fish Market and the cool air from the Humber are all said to contribute to its specific taste.

Ms Onn, Labour MP for Great Grimsby, said there were real concerns that smokehouses – operated by companies like Seachill and Alfred Enderby – could face huge tariffs to export their fish into the EU if Britain was outside the single market and customs union.

The Opposition frontbench spokeswoman highlighted the example of Norway, where the Scandinavian country’s salmon catchers were forced to use Polish smokehouses to get round heavy export costs.

“I have asked the Brexit Secretary [David Davis] to ensure that Grimsby smoked haddock retains its status after Brexit,” said Ms Onn.

“We make the best in the world and people everywhere should know that when they buy Grimsby Smoked Haddock, it genuinely has been smoked in our town."

Melanie Onn, Labour MP for Great Grimsby

“Our smoked fish industry also needs the Government to negotiate a tariff-free trade deal with Europe before we leave the EU.

“Because of the tariffs imposed on Norway’s processed fish, they now export it fresh to Poland to be smoked, so it’s vital that we avoid that outcome and keep our smokehouses in Great Grimsby.”

Grimsby's status as the home of smoked fish is under threat (Image: Chris Tomlinson)

Mr Cable, who will lead the Lib Dem party conference in Bournemouth on the weekend, added: “The government isn’t doing enough to guarantee the integrity of British brands, such as traditional Grimsby smoked fish, which commands a premium and provides jobs, making a very significant contribution to the British economy.

“We need to hear more from the Government about what they are doing to stand up for the British food and drink industry during these Brexit negotiations if they do insist on taking Britain out of the single market and customs union.”

An archive picture of smoked fish on a 50-stone capacity frame leaving the smoking tower in Grimsby

Conservative MP for Cleethorpes, Martin Vickers, said he would be raising the fears about Brexit’s possible impact on the status of traditionally smoked Grimsby fish at an upcoming meeting with Fishing Minister George Eustice.

“The smoking companies concerned haven’t specifically approached me about that, but then I am not their local MP,” said Mr Vickers.

“But I have made representations on behalf of the seafood processing industry on a number of occasions.

“I’m already waiting for a date with George Eustice to take a delegation from the industry to meet him.

“I’m sure he will take note of their needs and make sure their fears are addressed.”

A meeting with the Defra minister has been promised but the backbench MP is waiting for confirmation of the date.



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