Crisis talks are being held to end the travel ban keeping the UK cut off from the continent over fears about the spread of the new coronavirus variant. The closure of cross-channel routes until at least Wednesday has alarmed businesses in the lead-up to Christmas and with the added complication of the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31. But the chief executive of the Scottish Salmon producers organisation, Tavish Scott, has insisted companies are looking elsewhere to sell its stock.
Speaking to Sky News, Mr Scott said: “There will always be alternative markets because we’re selling salmon into the European market it commands a premium because of that we would argue it’s the best product in the market place.
“We don’t get quite that same price premium here at home in the UK. There are simply just more competitive market pressures.
“That means there won’t be such high returns on that in that marketplace but at least we managed to sell the product.
“We would rather sell it to Europe because 63 percent of Scottish salmon is sold into that European marketplace and it commands a premium there but where we possibly can, our companies are looking at alternative outlets here in the UK.”
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It comes as French transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebarri said he hoped a protocol would be agreed by European Union states “to ensure that movement from the UK can resume” after his country banned passengers and freight crossing the English Channel.
Boris Johnson was chairing a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee to discuss the mutant coronavirus and the travel restrictions imposed by the French and a string of other countries in Europe and beyond.
Sainsbury’s warned that disruption could hit supplies of lettuce, some salad leaves, cauliflowers, broccoli and citrus fruit, all of which are imported from the continent at this time of year.
Mr Djebarri said there would be a “solid health protocol” to “protect our nationals and our fellow citizens” while allowing movement to resume.
The Transport Secretary dismissed concerns about the impact of the travel ban on supplies of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which is manufactured in Belgium, because container freight was unaffected.
The chief executive of the Road Haulage Association (RHA), Richard Burnett, said the disruption could cause problems with “fresh food supply” in the run-up to Christmas.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “With it being so close to Christmas we’re looking at 48 hours at this point in time in terms of the restrictions, we’re likely to see Operation Stack building in terms of numbers of vehicles on the UK side and that might be a deterrent for EU hauliers to want to come so close to Christmas and end up being stranded here, that’s part of the challenge that we’re facing today.”
Port of Dover chief executive Doug Bannister said that a prolonged period of disruption would be a “stark situation”.