Grimsby welcomes Iceland and Norway post-Brexit trade deals
By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 19 Mar 2019
Grimsby’s seafood cluster has received the ultimate boost ahead of any potential no-deal Brexit, after free trade with Iceland and Norway was agreed.
It follows an earlier arrangement with the Faroe Islands, and brings together the major supply nations to the UK market.
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said the new agreement, which is subject to final checks before it is expected to be signed next week, was a “major milestone” in the Brexit preparations.
Import tariffs have been set at zero for whitefish in the guidance issued last week, but a deal will breathe confidence into an industry reliant on overseas catches.
One of the latest products to launch, reliant on Icelandic supply, via Grimsby.
Dr Fox said: “We have just reached agreement with Iceland and Norway to ensure continued access for British businesses to the European Economic Area should we leave the EU without a deal.
“This is one of the largest trade agreements we are party to as a result of our membership of the EU.
“This is good news for British businesses and a major milestone in getting the UK ready for Brexit, no matter the terms of our withdrawal. I expect to formally sign this agreement shortly and others to follow soon after.”
Iceland and Norway catch and forward for more than 80 per cent of fish sold on Grimsby Fish Market, with much more taken direct by major suppliers.
Martyn Boyers, chief executive of market operator Grimsby Fish Dock Enterprises Ltd, said: "In the current circumstances with so much confusion and disarray, it is very good that we have some sense of purpose and something agreed so that trade - absolutely critical to industry on the Humber - continues.
"For us, we are dealing with a perishable product in fresh fish, and every day lost causes significant problems. This is why it is very satisfying to know about this deal."
The Faroes form a weekly shipping call to take on additional supply for vessels sailing to the Humber from Reykjavik.
Martyn Boyers, right, with Hans Frode Kielland Asmyhr, UK director of Norwegian Seafood Council.
Simon Dwyer, secretariat of Grimsby Fish Merchants’ Association and a key figure representing cluster organisation Seafood Grimsby & Humber, said: To have sustainable trade deals in place with The Faroes, Iceland and Norway is great news for Grimsby and the processing sector for fresh and frozen fish.
“The devil will be in the detail but on the face of it is good news. It has support from politicians in both Norway and Iceland, and coupled with the free tariff announcement last week, if there is a no deal Brexit it puts us in a good position.”
Thanking the area’s MPs for their support, attention now turns to what it means for frictionless movement.
“We don’t think there has ever been too much concern about vessels from Iceland, but when it comes to trucks from Norway, this may not necessarily have solved any concerns. That still needs to be looked into, those 20 to 30 trucks coming over, driving through the EU. We need to make sure any deals or agreements committed to allow that frictionless trade to continue.”
Embassy figures uniting the nations have been confident arrangements would be in place throughout the term since Grimsby voted strongly to leave.
Grimsby solicitor, Jonathan Goolden, partner at Wilkin Chapman solicitors, receives his confirmation as honorary Icelandic consul for Grimsby, from Fridrik Thornsteinsson, left, managing director of Northeast Seafoods Ltd and Orn Eyfjord Jonsson, managing director of Atlantic Fish Ltd, second left, with Simon Dwyer looking on.
The area's Icelandic consul, Jonathan Goolden, who has worked closely with Grimsby-based seafood industry leaders since taking on the role last year, said: "I very much welcome this trade deal as an important step to preserving, and hopefully increasing the established trade links between the Humber, and particularly Grimsby, and Iceland."
Strong representations to Defra and the industry has clearly not gone unheard. One key voice heard in Grimsby last year, was that of Hans Frode Kielland Asmyhr, UK director for the Norwegian Seafood Council, a former MP back in Scandinavia.
Speaking to Humberbusiness.com today, he said: "On behalf of the Norwegian industry, I can say we are very happy and satisfied that the parties have been able to get to an agreement. This is of course intricated into a hard Brexit, and the possibility of a hard Brexit has been reduced over the past couple of weeks, so we can see it as a good insurance policy for the seafood industry in Norway and the UK.
"It is important the stability and long tradition of trade between our countries keeps on, even when the UK leaves the EU."
It will replicate the existing European Economic Area agreement (EEA) as far as possible, the Department for International Trade confirmed.
Labour was the third strand of the Brexit alarm bell sounded by industry, and work is progressing.
“Businesses are working with staff to secure citizenship status, and that is something that is ongoing,” Mr Dwyer said. “Where there are any gaps in the labour market that is a great opportunity for Grimsby people to fill them.”
As reported, major player Seachill has brought in family-friendly shift patterns to allow those with children to work in school-hours.