Scottish shellfish firm blamed Brexit as it is forced to close
A SEAFOOD company based on the Isle of Mull blamed Brexit when it announced its permanent closure.
The Ethical Shellfish Company, founded by Guy Grieve and his wife Juliet Knight 12 years ago, was known for its hand-dipped scallops which were delivered to the UK’s top chefs, as well as private customers, after having been purchased on the west coast. from Scotland.
Last week, Grieve confirmed on social media that his business was closing, writing: “The family farm is closing. God knows we tried. Mother Atlantic kept us going for years. My son’s characters were defined by experience, as were mine and that of my beloved ex-wife Juliette. Many lives to lead before dying. #Scotland.”
On Tuesday, the company released a full statement explaining exactly why it closed.
While the Covid pandemic was chosen as the main reason for the company’s closure, Brexit was the second most important factor.
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Grieve explained that the impact of the pandemic on the restaurant industry was in turn having a major effect on the Ethical Shipping Company, forcing the company to sell its boats.
Although it may survive, the business then depended on the supply of product from small dive boats along the west coast – but many of these depended on European staff who left Scotland during the pandemic and n didn’t come back after Brexit.
“This led to a drastic crew shortage which eventually caused our main supplier to stop fishing altogether and leave Scotland,” Grieve explained. “It also made it even more difficult to staff our small operation on Mull.”
According to the company’s founder, the “explosive growth of holiday accommodation” in Mull then made it difficult to find local workers as houses in the area sat empty for many months.
“It felt like the final insult when we were finally asked to vacate our business premises so they could be turned into – you guessed it – yet another holiday home,” Grieve added.
Other challenges the shellfish business faces include new health and safety regulations that make it “more difficult to set up as a dive fisherman”, and climate change leading to dwindling stocks of shellfish. shells, stronger winds making fishing more difficult.
Grieve added that it was “depressing” to have seen little progress in protecting the marine environment since the company was founded in 2010.
However, he confirmed that the team would move on to other environmental issues and “keep up the good fight”.
James Withers, CEO of Scotland Food & Drink, was not surprised by the factors that led to the closure of Ethical Shellfish Company.
“The usual two nightmares are there: Covid & Brexit,” he said. “But the story is more complex than that. The Scottish food sector has been transformed. But we still have a long way to go.
Mountaineer Cameron McNeish added that he hopes the Scottish Government will tackle the problem of second homes which is causing problems for businesses in the Highlands and Islands.
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“Worth reading as an indicator of how difficult it is to run a business in the Highlands and Islands,” he tweeted. “I hope the @scotgov takes note, especially in the very depressing realm of second homes, of a curse that destroys communities.”
Other businesses, including the Ullapool Bookstore, have shown solidarity with the seashell business.
“It’s humbling for Guy and, sadly, one that will resonate with so many companies, both today and those that came before. All the best for the future in your next chapter.
The news came a day after it emerged Brexit was also causing problems for the Falkland Islands fishing industry.
Derek Twigg, chairman of the Falkland Islands All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), said there was “a great deal of concern” about the impact of the UK’s exit from the EU on fisheries exports from the Falkland Islands, such as squid.
Speaking as parliamentarians marking 40 years of the Falklands War, the MP for Halton said: ‘Brexit has caused problems for the islands in terms of fishing, because their fishing…is a very large part of their economy, especially squid, especially the type of squid they have that is exported to Europe.
“Work is ongoing with the Falklands government and countries like Spain and the EU to try to resolve these issues as it is such a big exporter.”
His comments were echoed by the Falkland Islands Government’s representative to the UK and Europe, Richard Hyslop, who said: “As far as Brexit is concerned, as things stand, there is no obvious advantage for the Falkland Islands. There are, however, a number of challenges.
Hyslop said the EU is the main market for Falkland Islands fishery exports, with exports accounting for “over 50% of our GDP”, and “was an important market for meat exports”.
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However, since the end of the transition period in January 2021, exports from the Falkland Islands to the EU have been subject to tariffs, he added, with an average of 42% for meat and between 6 % and 18% for exports of fishery products.
The “very high tariff” on meat exports has “resulted in the loss of the market because it is simply no longer viable to export to the EU” while exports of fish products to the EU are “ now less profitable.
Hyslop said the Falkland Islands government was “exploring a wide range of options” considering “how we would get these tariffs removed”.