Boris Johnson has said that the fishing industry would be compensated for any problems caused by new post Brexit customs procedures.
Johnson, echoing comments he made last week, said that problems at the borders, which have seen some exporters unable to sell their catch, were “teething problems”.
A fund of £23m will be made available to those firms which have suffered “through no fault of their own”.
He also added that the issues had been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, which had hit demand for fish.
His comments came as a number of lorries carrying shellfish parked in the roads around Downing Street yesterday afternoon in protest at the new rules.
More than 20 lorries were reportedly involved, with some bearing slogans such as “Brexit carnage”.
The Prime Minister said: “In so far as there are problems at the moment, caused by teething problems, people not filling in the right forms or misunderstandings, and when it’s not people’s fault, of course we’re going to compensate and to help out,” Johnson said.
“I understand their frustrations and I understand their concerns and obviously things have been exacerbated by the COVID pandemic. Unfortunately, the demand in restaurants on the continent for UK fish has not been what it was before the pandemic.”
Since the start of the year, a raft of new paperwork requirements has meant that fishermen have been unable to export their catch to Europe.
The need for catch certificates, health checks and customs declarations has lead to lengthy delays at the border, with EU buyers rejecting stock as a result.
“We strongly feel the system could potentially collapse,” said Gary Hodgson, a director of Venture Seafoods, who is taking part in today’s protest.
“Prime Minister Boris Johnson needs to be honest with us, with himself and with the British public about the problems for the industry”.
Some firms have warned that they risk collapse within weeks unless the friction can be sorted.
Over the weekend foreign secretary Dominic Raab said that the delays were “teething problems”, adding that the Brexit deal could be a great opportunity for the industry.
Fishing makes up roughly 0.1 per cent of the UK’s GDP, but became a highly symbolic issue during the Brexit trade deal negotiations.