A pioneer exporter who sold lobsters to Europe from the Yorkshire coast has been forced to liquidate his 40-year-old family business – due to Brexit bureaucracy.
Sam Baron, who worked alongside his late father to create Baron Shellfish in Bridlington, said he had to let his “business manager win his heart”.
The company, the first lobster tanker company in Europe’s largest shellfish port, is believed to be the first major exporter to announce its closure.
Baron, 58, who had worked in the fishing industry since he was a schoolboy, cited the extra costs and paperwork associated with Brexit as the reason for its shutdown.
New regulations came into force on January 1 regarding exports of live animals to the EU, requiring additional checks and documents.
It was cited in The Guardian saying: ‘It’s all about Brexit – the extra costs, the extra paperwork and the extra bet – and it depends on the government and the EU.
“Every time you send transports with lobster, it’s like playing Russian roulette with five bullets in your gun.”
When announcing the closure, he said the company had been able to “take advantage of the common market, increasing its business by selling directly to customers” while Britain was in the EU.
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“This meant that we could buy competitively from our fellow merchants in Bridlington, making us a shipping hub to the EU.”
Over the years, the company has grown alongside Bridlington Harbor, which has become the UK’s largest shellfish harbor, and has sold catches from UK waters to mainland Europe.
Inside the common market, the company sold to countries like Spain, Belgium and Italy.
He added: “There is an element of disruption going on and I am currently speaking with business leaders and fishermen to determine if this is a short term disruption or if it is ‘a longer term problem. “
It comes as Environment Secretary George Eustice has said Brussels’ decision to impose barriers on UK exports of live shellfish is “untenable”.
Eustice insisted that there were “no legal barriers” to prevent trade and called on the European Commission to comply with existing regulations.
The introduction of new controls and red tape since the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31 has disrupted exports of fresh fish and seafood to the EU.
Producers have expressed frustration at the government’s lack of action, while last month seafood haulers protested the Brexit fishing deal by stacking trucks in central London.
Eustice said the Commission changed its position last week and before that “they made it clear that this is a trade that can continue”.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today program on Tuesday: “We wrote to the Commissioner yesterday, we had a dialogue with them.
“The truth is that there are no legal obstacles to the continuation of this trade, both for animal health and public health reasons – there are legal provisions in existing European regulations to allow this trade to continue from the United Kingdom.
“We are simply asking the EU to respect its existing regulations and not seek to change them.
“They changed their position last week – before that they had made it clear that this is an exchange that can continue – so we want to work to understand why they are proposing a change at this point.”
He said the UK hopes they can resolve the issue with the EU and “get them to comply with their own regulations.”
French MEP Pierre Karleskind, who chairs the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee, said today that Brexit was at the root of these problems, but said they made no sense.
“I have no problem with the fact that we have to find this solution.
“I’m not happy with this question so far and the point is UK waters didn’t get dirty on December 31st at midnight so it really doesn’t make sense.
“Except we have to find a way to be sure in the long run that we have the assurance that what we import from the UK will meet the high standards of quality and sanitary quality for our consumer.”
The government’s £ 23million compensation scheme for the fishing industry is now open.
The UK-wide Seafood Disruption Support Program will help businesses that suffered a loss due to export issues in January, providing up to £ 100,000 per business.
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