Brexit concerns for Eyemouth fish firm

Eyemouth fish and shellfish suppliers D R Collin has not received a single permit which would allow it to transport its produce over to Europe after March 29 if the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal.

Friday, 15th February 2019, 12:58 pm
Updated Friday, 15th February 2019, 1:01 pm
D R Collin lorries parked up at Eyemouth Harbour.

D R Collin, which applied for six permits, is among the 90% of hauliers who are now left wondering if they will have a business left after March 29, the UK Government having issued only 984 European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT) international haulage permits - 11,392 permits were applied for.

D R Collin sends over 80% of its fresh fish and live shellfish to Europe, mainly France, Spain and Italy and director James Cook is in despair at what the future holds for the company, the biggest in Eyemouth, employing 197 people.

“We are one of the biggest employers in the area and we feel completely alone,” said Mr Collin. “We were in France last week seeking customers’ reaction and to see what is physically going to be implemented. The French customs are way ahead of us when it comes to customs intervention.

“We have had no support, we have been left to our own devices. We were asked by the Government to apply for vehicle permits for our lorries travelling to Europe and we applied for six permits, we submitted our application in October and heard back that we are getting zero permits.

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“We have the lorries and the drivers but we can’t drive to our customers on the continent. We have all these people, all this product and it’s all at risk. We need some sort of certainty so we can access the market. We have been at meetings where they have said that they are going to issue customs documents but have been given no timeline.”

The Government expects that hauliers should not need an ECMT permit to doing business in all or much of the EU, even in the event of no deal.

However they continue: “But it is important to continue to prepare for all possible scenarios, and if it should prove necessary to use some of these permits for UK hauliers operating to EU countries, the Government has put in place a scheme to allocate these permits.”

The allocation criteria for the ECMT permits, which replace the current community licences that give access to EU countries for UK operators - intensity of use, industrial sector they are in, vehicle emissions, existing international business - has left many businesses in the same position as D R Collin.

The frustrations for the directors of D R Collin are huge: “We came back from France feeling that 40 years of business is in jeopardy,” added Mr Cook. “We’re told that food exporters can only survive for six weeks. How can we survive if we can’t even get our product out of the country?

“There were eight directors went out to France to speak to customers and distributors and all say they are worried about how it will impact them.”

Speaking on Border ITV in December last year about the need for rapid transit to European markets, James Cook said the company may look at moving to Europe in order to access its European markets and is already considering France or Southern Ireland as an option.

The company directors have been “very nervous” about Brexit but now don’t know which way to turn after hearing they have no ECMT permits.

Some 2,832 short-term (30 days) ECMT permits will be allocated next month but none of them will be needed if the EU Withdrawal Agreement is passed and Jesse Norman, Minister of State Department of Transport, said this week: “Overall, we continue to believe that reciprocal market access will be secured for UK hauliers.”