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Concerns over impact of Brexit on Norfolk’s fish and chip shops

PUBLISHED: 12:41 23 July 2018

Alex Mayer MEP met with the owners of Platten’s Fish and Chips in Wells to discuss the impact of Brexit on the industry. Picture: Supplied by Alex Mayer.

Alex Mayer MEP met with the owners of Platten’s Fish and Chips in Wells to discuss the impact of Brexit on the industry. Picture: Supplied by Alex Mayer.

Alex Mayer.

Fish and chips are a great English tradition, synonymous with life in our region. But now an MEP has warned that a no deal Brexit could batter the region’s fish and chip shops and force some out of business. DANIEL BENNETT reports...

Fish and chip shop owners in Norfolk have expressed concerns. Photo: SeafishFish and chip shop owners in Norfolk have expressed concerns. Photo: Seafish

Many people who grew up in East Anglia will have fond childhood memories of eating fish and chips on Wells Quay, by Cromer Pier or around Great Yarmouth seafront.

Visit these and other towns along the region’s coast and it’s clear to see our passion for the English classic is as strong as ever.

But now concerns have been raised about the impact a no deal or hard Brexit deal could have on the region’s fish and chip shops, with fears that some could be forced out of business.

Marcus French of French's Fish & Chip Shop has also expressed concerns. Picture: Matthew Usher.Marcus French of French's Fish & Chip Shop has also expressed concerns. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Labour MEP for the East of England Alex Mayer believes that exiting the European Union without guarantees over fishing trade could damage the industry, with costs of importing haddock and cod rising since the referendum.

She said: “All free trade deals we have already, with non EU countries that we import cod from, are through the EU.

“Any tariffs placed on fish are likely to either jeopardise small local businesses, that operate on small profit margins such as fish and chip shops, or be passed on to the consumer. This would be bad in either case.”

A report earlier this year from investment bank Rabobank estimated that tariffs placed on imports of the country’s most popular seafood in the event of a hard brexit would range between 7.5% and 18%.

The drop in the value of the pound since the referendum outcome has already meant that it has become around 15% to 20% more expensive to import frozen white fish, with many shops being forced to put their prices up.

Alex Mayer met with Phil Platten, owner of Wells fish and chip shop Platten’s Fish and Chips, on Friday, to discuss the potential impact of a no deal or hard brexit deal on the industry.

Mr Platten said: “Brexit is going to happen but as a business we want to work with the EU. There may come a point where the public won’t want to pay the prices.

“I think if fish prices continue to go up it would be the final nail in the coffin for some of the smaller shops. If we are finding it difficult I should imagine some others might find it impossible.”

However, North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham, who backed the leave campaign in the referendum, believes that in the long-term Brexit could be beneficial for the industry.

He said: “I think it’s in our very best interests that we get a deal and there is a strong possibility that we will get one but it would be silly not to prepare for the possibility of not getting one.

“We would still be able to trade through the EEA and eventually we would be able to get back control of our own waters, which is a good thing in the long run.

“We have to be positive and not believe the scare stories that are going round.”

The Federation of Fish Friers estimates that annual spend on fish and chips in the UK is around £1.2 billion.

Prepared and preserved fish, which is the main type used in fish and chip shops, make up almost £100m in imports and carries the highest tariffs.

A lot of the UK’s fish imports come from Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Norway, with the three nations making up more than half of the UK’s cod imports.

Gary Wright owns Little Gary’s Plaice in Watton and says rising fish costs have already impacted his business.

He said: “Fish prices always go up and down but I think it’s now gone up and that is where it will stay.

“Our prices will rise unfortunately but people will have to understand it.”

Marcus French of French’s Fish and Chip Shop in Wells also says that the uncertainty around Brexit causes issues.

He said: “We don’t know what is going to happen.

“There are many factors affecting the industry but we can’t make long term plans.”

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