The European Union’s callous ban on the import of live shellfish from Britain looks set to be rendered obsolete after British waters were upgraded to meet European standards.
The bloc had imposed a ban on third countries exporting their live catch to the European single market if caught in Class B waters, which much of Britain’s fishing grounds had been listed as being. The ban was initially set to be expire this month but the Commission extended the ban indefinitely and specifically singled out the import of UK catch as being “strictly forbidden”.
Environment secretary George Eustice had branded the ban on UK catch “unjustifiable” and “legally wrong” after the British government claimed it had received assurances from the Commission that live catch from British waters would not be included in the ban after Brexit.
The EU executive had been accused of playing malicious political games with top French MEP who heads the parliament’s fisheries committee, Pierre Karleskind insisting the ban “doesn’t make any sense” because “UK waters didn’t become dirty on December 31 at midnight”.
A government minister told the Mail on Sunday that Brussels had imposed the ban “to punish us for daring to become a nation state.
“They effectively changed the law to justify their position in blocking the trade, despite clear indications that the export from Class-B waters for purification could continue after the transition period,” the source added.
However, in a review by the independent Food Standards Agency, the waters off Kent, Essex, Devon, Cornwall and Northumberland have all now been upgraded to Class A, meaning oysters, mussels, claims and cockles caught in these regions can now be exported to the EU market.
“The UK is a world leader in environmental and health standards, and we take our responsibilities on food exports extremely seriously,” the government minister told the Sunday newspaper.
“More produce from UK waters will now be eligible for export to the EU again, boosting the British fishing industry.”