The UK Seafood Industry Alliance made up of the country's seafood leading processors can be expected to drive a hard bargain with in talks with any incoming government, after Thursday's general election as it seeks to maintain the conditions that have driven the industry's success.

No matter which political party is in power after the election, the elephant in the room was always going to be Brexit, after the United Kingdom voted narrowly to leave the European Union in June 2016.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the election in an effort to break the logjam among lawmakers that has three times delayed the United Kingdom's departure from the European Union and which is now scheduled for Jan. 31.

  • Bird’s Eye Iglo
  • Fastnet Fish
  • Golden Acre Foods
  • Icelandic Seachill
  • John West Foods
  • Joseph Robertson (Aberdeen)
  • Lyons Seafoods
  • New England Seafood International
  • Princes
  • Sco-Fro Group
  • Sea Products International
  • Unibond International
  • Young's Seafood

With the election in mind, but before the UK's political parties published their manifestos of policy pledges the alliance published its own manifesto setting out a series of must-win conditions for the UK seafood sector to continue to be able to operate smoothly and successfully.

Firstly, the industry said that relationships with all trading partners which allow it to continue supplying consumers with affordable and healthy products from sustainably managed fisheries must be protected.

A knottier demand, should Brexit go ahead, is the continued need for the industry to be able to import what it needs and to sell into other markets on the freest possible terms, including retention of existing tariff concessions without additional border controls.

While immigration has proved to be such a heated element of the whole Brexit debate processors say access to a dedicated and skilled workforce, which help add value and contribute to the wider UK economy, especially in areas where there are fewer other opportunities is essential.

At the same time, maintaining and enhancing the industry's the hard won reputation for responsible sourcing policies, including the elimination of fraud, illegality and poor labor practices are seen as key areas for UK seafood.

Whatever the eventual outcome of the Brexit saga, continued cooperation with European and international partners for the best use of science-based management of shared stocks to allow standards to be driven up in global supply chains is another key area.

As the climate change debate rages, measures to ensure oceans can continue to supply people everywhere with healthy and sustainable food in the face of climate change and other resource pressures which threaten future food security are also uppermost in processors' thinking.

"Like other food businesses, fish processors need competitively priced raw materials, the skills and labour required to produce value-added, quality products and a framework of regulation, which gives consumers confidence in what they are buying," UK Seafood Industry Alliance's Andrew Kuyk told IntraFish.

"Without continuing access to zero or reduced duty raw material supplies – which currently account for around two thirds of what we eat – consumers would have less choice, the market would shrink and jobs and investment would be lost."

Whether and to what extent the new government will listen to the seafood industry is an open question with future negotiations over fishing rights with the EU likely to prove not only torturous but politically explosive.

Bearing all this mind, the UK Seafood Industry Alliance highlights the fact that two-thirds of the fish consumed in the UK come from waters outside current EU or possible future UK fishing limits.

This it says reflects consumer choice and where sufficient supplies of preferred species can be found.

While those in favor of leaving the EU argue the UK will regain control of its own fishing grounds, the UK Seafood Industry Alliance says the UK has never been self-sufficient in fish in modern times, with or without the EU's Common Fisheries Policy.

Even on the most optimistic assumptions about stock recovery or future UK quota shares, there will still be a substantial shortfall in terms of current market needs, the trade body says.

For example, each year the UK imports nearly three and a half times the total volume of cod landed by EU registered vessels from all EU waters, including catches in areas (e.g. the Baltic Sea) which the UK fleet will not be able to access, it adds.

To illustrate the point, the UK Seafood Industry Alliance said its members employ more people than the catching sector and have combined sales of four and half times the value of UK fish landings.

Kuyk highlighted reports coming out of Brussels that the remaining EU27 countries will be looking for a future fisheries deal with the UK, which stays as close as possible to existing arrangements on access to waters and quota shares based on relative stability.

That will be a negotiating challenge for both sides, he said, particularly given the Political Declaration on the UK's exit from the EU also contains a commitment to reaching a deal on fish by July 1, 2020 – regardless of whether the transition period for the UK's departure is extended or not.

"This is a very demanding deadline to say the least," he said.