Rishi Sunak has been urged to bail out struggling seafood exporters who have lost hundreds of thousands of pounds in sales due to Brexit red tape.
Many north-east firms lost out after trawlers were forced to remain in port and stock was left in lorries during the bureaucratic hold-ups last week.
Many traders now fear they will go broke through the permanent loss of continental trade, with things expected to get even worse in the weeks ahead.
Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael has now called on the Chancellor to step in and support firms.
He said: “The Chancellor’s assertion that the Prime Minister’s trade deal means that businesses can now start to do things differently and better will have been heard with total incredulity by anyone whose business involves the export of seafood.
“The new procedures for export are a bureaucratic mess that has brought export trade to a grinding halt.
“One local fish trader told me this morning that a single consignment now has to go with no fewer than 17 attachments and another told me on Friday that he had lost £50,000 on a single consignment that he had been unable to export.
“What is the Chancellor going to do to offer help to fish exporters during this difficult time – difficult because of Defra’s own rules and procedures?”
Brexit gives seafood exporters ‘tariff-free access’
Mr Sunak responded: “What this deal provides is that all those businesses have tariff-free access to European markets; otherwise there would have been significant tariffs on those exports.
“He is right, there are changes to our trading relationship, that has always been the case and both the Prime Minister and the government have been clear about that.
“I know (Michael Gove) is working though individual issues as we look over time to improve processes, and he will also know that we have invested a huge amount of resource in both the IT systems at Defra but also in providing support for those businesses to fill out various forms and meet new procedures.”
The Chancellor clearly has no idea how difficult these new procedures are for businesses. Seafood exporters may not face tariffs in trading with the EU but they are tied up in yards of Brexit red tape thanks to this Government. Ministers need to take action to mitigate the harm. https://t.co/jNIBmUWzrc
— Alistair Carmichael (@amcarmichaelMP) January 11, 2021
Following the exchange Mr Carmichael said it was clear the Chancellor had “no idea how difficult these new procedures are for local businesses”.
“It’s like a motorway crash and there’s people with L plates and experienced drivers all caught up in it,” he said.