London: The UK government has announced the funding of up to 23 million pounds ($31 million) to support seafood exporters that are most adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and the challenges of adjusting to new export requirements after Brexit.
“This is in recognition of the unique circumstances of the fishing sector, which has had the most significant new requirements to adjust to, and for whom even a short delay can lead to goods perishing,” Xinhua news agency quoted a statement issued on Wednesday by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs as saying.
The industry has already been hit by the reduction in demand from the hospitality sector in the UK and other export markets as a result of the pandemic with market prices falling by as much as 40 per cent, according to the statement.
Fishing rights became a critical issue in the 11th hour talks that led to a post-Brexit trade deal agreed between the UK and the European Union (EU) last month.
Under the deal, the EU fishing quota in British waters will be reduced by 15 per cent in the first year and 2.5 percentage points each year after.
From June 2026, annual talks will be held between the two sides to set the amount EU fishing boats can catch in British waters and vice versa.
The UK will have the right to completely withdraw access to fishing boats from EU member states, but the bloc could respond by suspending access to its waters for British boats or impose tariffs on fish exports from Britain to the EU.
According to the UK’s National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, the fishing industry is “disappointed and frustrated” with the deal.
For Steve Barclay, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, the new package of support will help the fishing sector “navigate the challenges of the next few months” and the government will continue its efforts to support jobs and build back better from the pandemic.
On December 30, 2020, British lawmakers approved the post-Brexit trade deal by a large majority, paving the way for an orderly Brexit when the transition period ended on the next day.
They voted 521-73 to back the trade deal in the House of Commons.
The deal, which came after nine months of arduous negotiations, is the biggest bilateral trade deal signed by either side, covering trade worth around 668 billion pounds.