MP's bid to keep fish on Brexit menu is welcomed

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 19 Dec 2016

KEY figures in Grimsby's seafood industry have welcomed town MP Melanie Onn's self-set task of ensuring the very best of Brexit when it comes to a fishing future.

While the negotiations will prove far from simple, with the complexities of international waters, stocks and quotas to wade through, as well as how it sits within any new trading relations and border controls, the attention to the absolute detail has been commended.

Throughout the referendum campaign it proved to be a return-to subject for the leave team, culminating in flotillas in the Humber and the Thames.

Visions of a return to bountiful British fleets were dished up, with front-runner Michael Gove name-checking Grimsby in a passionate speech about the industry.

The Great Grimsby MP has been on her feet in Westminster, introducing a debate, while also "remaining" on the heels of those tasked with handling the negotiations.

Last week, having found out there was a consultation with Norway on trading outside the EU, she was quick to ask why the industry didn't come in to it, as reported.

Neither Brexit Secretary David Davis or Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson mentioned the industry with Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende. And she has the backing of Simon Dwyer, (pictured right), managing director of Seafox, a company that acts as the secretariat for both Grimsby Fish Merchants' Association and Grimsby Fishing Vessel Owners' Association. He is also the UK and Ireland representative for the Norwegian-hosted North Atlantic Seafood Forum.

He said: "She is right to raise it. We get a lot of fish from Norway, frozen and fresh.

More: Melanie Onn: It would be 'wrong' to try to block Brexit after referendum

"At the moment, it is taking anything between five and six days for fresh fish to arrive overland. If we happen to have any border restrictions in terms of crossing into the EU or then the UK, it could have a serious impact with supply.

"It could impact on shelf life integrity in terms of the retailers. We have got to get this right when it comes to customs control, or it is going to hurt. It is an important part of the supply chain."

The Norwegian Seafood Council meets in London next month, and Mr Dwyer, who also participated in a special Brexit panel at Humber Seafood Summit at Cleethorpes Pier in September, said the FMA will be represented.

"We are hoping to learn more about how they view Brexit at that meeting," he said.

Iceland and Norway are the largest providers of seafood into Grimsby, with supplies hitting the market and going direct to merchants and processors.

While Icelandic fish arrives direct on sailings into Immingham, and is less likely to be impacted, Norwegian supply is trucked through mainland Europe, adding to the border complexities.

For Martyn Boyers, chief executive of Grimsby Fish Market running Grimsby Fish Dock Enterprises, it may be a little premature to get into the final detail, when the great unknown remains the shape Brexit will take.

"Regardless of the timeframe, and it is going to be particularly complicated when you get into the fisheries, raising it, keeping it in the public eye, has got to be good," he said.

"Melanie is passionate about Grimsby, and she is certainly doing that, keeping the focus on."

Mr Boyers has been in conversation with Defra officials focused on strategies around exiting Europe.

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