British seafood is prized in France and Spain far more than at home. Britain’s exit from the European Union hasn’t halted exports, but the path from sea to stovetop is fraught with new obstacles.
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To gauge Brexit’s impact, Stephen Castle and Andrew Testa accompanied a seafood catch from the Scottish coast to a restaurant in France.
Of all the vexing regulations that Brexit has thrust upon Paul Knight’s shellfish exporting business, the one he finds most absurd is this: Before he can deliver his crabs and lobsters to France and Spain, they must be certified by a veterinarian.
“I don’t mean anything against the vets — they are lovely people,” said Mr. Knight, managing director of PDK Shellfish, as he and his staff prepared the voluminous forms now needed to send a truck down from Scotland. “But when did you take your pet lobster to the vet?”
Brexit has tied Mr. Knight and other Scottish exporters in knots, adding reams of paperwork and extra checkpoints that delay the transport and causing more live shellfish to die en route. When it took full effect, in January 2021, Brexit ended an era of easy trade with his markets in continental Europe. Mr. Knight likens the impact to a bomb exploding under his firm.
It hasn’t done him much good personally either. He has started smoking, a habit he thought he had kicked. He has little time for cycling or other exercise and works every weekend. The result, he says, is a weight gain of more than 80 pounds.
But the impact has also been felt right through the shellfish trade, from the fishing crews on Scottish islands that catch lobster, crab and langoustine, right through to those who serve it to customers in upmarket restaurants in France.
As dawn breaks over the rocky coastline of western Scotland, a pair of dolphins race alongside the Dignity Jay, a 30-foot boat headed out to sea to haul shellfish traps from deep beneath the waves.
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