Amble seafood firm left to count the cost of Brexit after shipment refused entry to France

An Amble seafood firm has voiced its Brexit frustrations after a clerical error cost it thousands of pounds.

Thursday, 16th June 2022, 10:36 am

A consignment from Coquet Island Shellfish Company was rejected by French authorities because a form signed 43 times by a UK official did not include a printed name.

The firm was faced with destroying the product at a cost of £50,000 or bringing it back to Northumberland.

Fortunately, the shipment was salvaged as the company has a frozen arm to the business, but it had to pay the transport company and bring in a team of 75 people the next day to reprocess and repack it at a cost of £10-£15,000.

Langoustines at the Coquet Island Shellfish Company.

“It’s incredibly frustrating,” said sales director Jane Pedersen said: “The food safety of the consignment was never in question. It was simply a clerical omission.

"This incident was quite ridiculous in that the UK certifying officer missed printing a name in two places on the 14-page document and it was turned away by French customs officials at Boulogne-sur-Mer.

"It happened just before a French bank holiday so demand was high and we’d timed everything to get fresh shellfish to Paris or Brittany at just the right time only for it to be rejected.”

The firm, based on the Coquet Enterprise Park, has an annual turnover approaching £20million and employs 75 people.

"Around 95% of our produce is exported because there isn’t the demand in the UK for langoustines,” said Jane.

"We’ve been exporting for years so we know what we’re doing but in the past 18 months since Brexit it has become incredibly stressful. The obstructions put in our way are just awful. It’s a never-ending headache.

"And it’s like shouting into a black hole. We keep shouting but no-one is listening.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: “We continue to engage with the European Union to help resolve any issues that UK exporters may be experiencing, with work to develop a digitisation process ongoing.

“In the meantime certifying officers must ensure that any paperwork from a trader is correctly and fully completed to minimise the chance of rejection at the EU border. Traders should also ensure their exports have the correct paperwork to comply with animal and animal product checks.”