New Icelandic consul welcomed as focus on smooth trade escalates pre-Brexit

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 3 Dec 2018

Icelandic business leaders with significant interests in Grimsby have welcomed the appointment of a new consul as political uncertainty presents new challenges to the “unique” relationship.

Solicitor Jonathan Goolden, a partner at town-headquartered law firm Wilkin Chapman, has taken on the role, having been approved by the North Atlantic nation’s government.

Orn Jonsson, managing director of Atlantic Fresh and Fridrik Thornsteinsson, managing director of Northcoast Seafoods, together with Seafood Grimsby and Humber’s Simon Dwyer, handed over the commission signed by Icelandic Foreign Minister Gudlaungur Thor Thordarson, confirming his position.

It is recognition of the importance of Icelandic trade and business to the area, with Grimsby one of seven consulates for the Nordic state in the UK. Mr Goolden takes over from former colleague David Buckle, who held the diplomatic post from 1999 until his retirement.

“I am honoured to continue Wilkin Chapman’s commitment to supporting the Icelandic community in the Humber and the very substantial fisheries and shipping links between Grimsby and Iceland,” he said. “I look forward to working with Icelandic-owned businesses such as Atlantic Fresh and Northcoast to promote trade and cultural links between our two countries.”

Read more: Grimsby fish meal plant achieves BRC approval

There is a functional element too. Icelandic citizens and businesses can contact him for assistance with emergency passports, voting in elections and for UK-Icelandic trade issues.

It is there, for the seafood leaders, the role is a critical one.

Mr Thornsteinsson, who has just unveiled plans to take his seafood trading business into processing, with a plant being established on South Humberside Industrial Estate, said: “The Humber area, and Grimsby, has always been an will be so important to Iceland because of the seafood. Having a consul in the area is very important for the Icelandic fishing industry.

“It is very important as it makes our life easier with regard to relationships with our mother country to have this access. It makes us feel more comfortable, and also means we don’t have to go to London for all of these matters.

“Seafood is very important to this area, and as Iceland is a very busy seafood country, we will always have some Icelanders in the area linked to the industry.”

Brexit throws up a new challenge, and while the country’s reciprocal ambassadors have assured parties arrangements will be in hand, the test will come when Britain leaves the EU, with our trade relationship anchored through Brussels.

Mr Jonsson heads up the key company bringing the majority of supplies into Grimsby Fish Market, where Mr Goolden has already joined chief executive Martyn Boyers for an early morning auction and tour.

He said: “What we have here with Iceland and the Humber, is a unique business relationship, almost integral, and it has been going on for decades, even centuries, and I don’t think there are many countries that have such a developed relationship. It is important to have a consul on the Humber, not just for business, but a politically, as it shows it is important.”

Read more: Seafood cluster voices concerns over future trade with Iceland and Norway

Casting his mind back to the global recession, it was Grimsby representation in Westminster which lifted economic sanctions imposed that were rooted in terrorism legislation.

“When we had the Icelandic crash we got involved in the politics, with the Fish Merchants’ Association, led by Steve Norton at the time, and Austin Mitchell, who did fantastic work,” Mr Jonsson said. “Business got frozen, we couldn’t pay Iceland, we couldn’t get money there. Steve and Austin played a great part in correcting that.

“It is important to have a voice that is heard. Grimsby relies on fresh fish and it is extremely important, because of the nature of the product, there is no time delay or tariff. That is what we fear with Brexit.”

Both are told everything possible is being done to protect trade links. “We have to trust the background work taking place,” Mr Thorsteinsson said.

Mr Dwyer, a leading figure in the cluster organisation, has succeeded Mr Norton in stewardship of the FMA. He said: “Active consular services for Icelandic-based businesses and nationals living in the region underpin the Icelandic investments and talent supporting our economy.”

A first visit to Iceland is being lined up by Mr Goolden ahead of an official consular gathering in September. 

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