One of Devon’s largest fish exporters has admitted he “made a mistake” by voting for Brexit, revealing that he has been unable to send consignments to Europe since Boris Johnson’s deal with Brussels came into force.
“It’s just been an absolute nightmare,” Brixham-based fish merchant Ian Perkes told BylineTV. “If I could turn the clock back, would I have voted Leave? Of course not. I’d have wanted to stay in, for the future of my family.”
Boris Johnson claimed on Wednesday that British fishermen should prepare for an “El Dorado” in the coming months – despite mounting complaints about the amount of paperwork now required of exporters.
The prime minister blamed “complications over form-filling” for the “barriers” some fishers are facing, but told MPs things will improve – and claiming that fabulous riches await.
But Perkes said he was struggling to be optimistic about the future of Britain’s fishing industry – despite promises that things will get better.
“The reality is, it’s now 20 January and we haven’t yet sent a consignment to Europe from Brixham,” he said. “Forty-four years I’ve been selling fish, and overnight it’s pretty much been destroyed. I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel as we speak.”
Perkes added that he felt like he had been “taken along on the ride” by promises made by Johnson and others during the referendum campaign in 2016.
He said: “I think I was taken along on the ride that we all were on with the bus going around, we were going to save £350 million per week that we were throwing to Brussels, we were going to have this free trade and Europe were going to be desperate for our fish because we’d have control of it all and we’d be in control of our own destiny.
“I’m coming to the end of my career, but I think me and many others have perhaps made a mistake. I just thought there’d be a better future for myself and for my children, and my children’s children, to become independent and have our own fishing grounds.”
MPs warned this week that the entire fishing industry could be destroyed if ministers do not take immediate action to fix customs issues.
SNP MP Stuart C McDonald told George Eustice, the environment secretary, that Scottish seafood companies were concerned they were “going out of business” with their produce “sitting in lorry parks in Kent waiting for customs clearance”.