The concerns about red tape were aired a day after the government sanctioned Russia’s catch 

The British Frozen Food Federation has asked the government to rethink proposed ”red tape” that could stymie fish supplies in November when the UK applies health certificate requirements to imports from the European Union.

CEO Richard Harrow this week wrote to Defra to warn “adding a cumbersome certification stage, involving the physical stamping and signing of paper certificates by veterinary officers, will require the consignments to be diverted over several hours to certification centres in the exporting countries”.

Fish importers would suffer “unnecessary costs”, Harrow warned, asking Defra to instead “ develop and implement a trusted trader scheme or electronic certification system as soon as possible”.

The UK began phasing in controls on imports of food from the EU in January, after a year of post-Brexit checks on goods headed the other way. The UK imported 46% of food eaten in the country in 2020, with around half those imports coming from the EU.

Russian food and drink imports to UK hit with 35% tariffs

The requrements, Harrow said, were “examples of the knock-on effects of Brexit and additional complexity that has been added to the UK food system which BFFF members now have to deal with on a daily basis”.

This year has already seen British dairy and fish companies complain that the EU’s new health certificates were causing hold-ups for consignments crossing the English Channel to France. Several industry calls have been made for the EU and UK to hammer out a veterinary agreement, which proponents argued would cut out the need for health or SPS checks. However, British poultry sector representatives last week called for tighter controls on imports from the EU.

It comes as sanctions imposed on Russia this week as punishment for its military assault on Ukraine could put its mammoth whitefish catch – which Seafish recently estimated as making up at least a fifth of all such fish consumed in the UK – out-of-bounds for hard-pressed shoppers who are already facing surging food price inflation and possible shortages of grains and oils.

Food and drink bosses call for legislation ‘pause’ while they focus on Ukraine crisis