THREE weeks into Brexit and over 50 fishermen and women working in the Carrick Roads still haven’t earned a penny because of an ‘absolute lash-up’ by Defra.

Martin Laity, who runs Sailor’s Creek Shellfish based in Flushing, says he has had to lay off over 50 oyster fishermen and women because Defra hasn’t even created the form that allows them to export to Europe after Brexit.

He’s been told that it won’t be ready until April 21 but the shellfish season finishes on March 30th and doesn’t start again until November. Selling shellfish to Europe it has to be alive and fresh as it can be. If not, it is rejected and, with the new border controls, this cannot be guaranteed.

“We have got 52 men and women out of work until then and the problem is that the inherent delays that are built into the system mean that they are no longer live shellfish when it arrives, or no longer as fresh as it should be,” he said.

Mr Laity’s family has been selling shellfish to France for hundreds and hundreds of years, with one customer still holding records of his grandfather selling him fish.

Falmouth Packet: Mr Laity's family has been fishing for hundreds of years .On the left is Mylor man Clinton Powell and Mr Laity's father Dennis Laity in the late 1950s landing sharks, both their grandsons sell fish and shellfish at the Food Barn on Saturday mornings MatMr Laity's family has been fishing for hundreds of years .On the left is Mylor man Clinton Powell and Mr Laity's father Dennis Laity in the late 1950s landing sharks, both their grandsons sell fish and shellfish at the Food Barn on Saturday mornings MatFalmouth Packet: Matt Powell grandson of Clinton Powell at the food barnMatt Powell grandson of Clinton Powell at the food barn

He said even during Covid, up to the end of last year, they were selling record amounts of shellfish to France and last January was incredibly busy but now they had nothing.

“Last year in January was our busiest month, but even with Covid we were doing well. Brexit is a death sentence,” he said

“No way is it going to get better. All the laws and paperwork, it is statute, it’s law now there’s no reversing that.”

Mr Laity says the response from the government has been shocking.

This week it announced £23,000,000 fund allocated for small and medium seafood exporters that have had serious disruption because of Brexit.

“I've said to the local MP [Cherilyn MacKrory] that this is a Band Aid plaster this aid package, and we really appreciate it, but we don't want handouts. We just want to do our job and to get what we were promised. And the promises haven’t rung true. It's been a bloody insult them telling us just fill in the forms it is a teething problem. It is much, much bigger than that."

Cherilyn Mackrory MP says seafood exporters in Truro and Falmouth will be able to apply for a share from a new £23million Government fund to support businesses which have been most adversely affected by the COVID pandemic and the challenges of adjusting to new requirements for exporting.

She says this is in recognition of the unique circumstances of the fishing sector, which has had the most significant new requirements to adjust to, and for whom even a short delay can lead to goods perishing - at a time when the industry is facing lower market prices and demand due to the pandemic.

Read next:

Mr Laity said he is seriously considering trying to fly his shellfish to Breton, France from Cornwall’s airports as it would cause less delay and be cheaper. But only if the form is forthcoming.

He has been in touch with Cornwall councillor Loic Rich who's been onto Newquay airport officials about their plight.

“It's costing so much now to get stuff over there by road, actually air freight is cheaper. Land’s End Airport to Brest airport is 122 miles. It will be cheaper for us to send by air

“The airports aren’t in big demand at the moment so when our cargo plane rocks up it's the only thing that they've got to clear through customs. We think this is a solution.”

He said he had also asked Cherilyn MacKrory to request the Plymouth Roscoff Ferry is reinstated to export only seafood.

Mr Laity said his wife, who is French, was speaking to the French veterinary control or the border posts pretty much every day. They said they were being super lenient at the moment to try and facilitate everything but in two weeks they were going to start to clampdown. If the consignment isn't in order they will start to condemn the goods.

“If they condemn stuff they would at least be able to move it through quicker but also the other factor is that less than 20% of our production is going out of the country and nationally at the moment.

“So when we get up to full production that's going to be fourfold the demand. It ain’t gonna cope.”

Mr Laity said he’d been promised a call from the Secretary of State's office since last Thursday and it was now Wednesday and he still hadn't received a call.

“George Eustice, his department, it’s just an absolute lash-up,” he said. “The lengths we go to. My wife, last October, flew out to the World Seafod Expo so that we can sell our sail caught oysters and Queens to a Chinese, all paid for out of our own pockets, a lot of big business. These are the efforts we are going to. What efforts are they going to? They ain’t going to any effort.”

And before you ask, Mr Laity did not vote for Brexit.

Defra, George Eustice and Cherilyn MacKrory MP have been approached for comment