Jacob Rees-Mogg has claimed that ‘British fish’ are happier now because the UK has left the EU.
The Etonian Leader of the House of Commons was responding to a question about compensating fishermen because of stock rotting at ports due to Brexit-related hold-ups.
The comments follow an admission by Victoria Prentis, the under-secretary of State for Farming and Fishing, that she did not read the fisheries agreement because she was “very busy” organising a nativity trail at the time.
Welsh shellfish wholesaler Nerys Edwards, who supported Brexit, has said she is worried for the future of her business after nearly £50,000 of lobsters, prawns and crabs were delayed for more than 30 hours on a lorry to Spain.
When the new trading deal came into effect on January 1, 90 per cent of Welsh shellfish was being exported to the EU. The industry relies on being able to export to the continent as quickly as possible to keep the produce alive.
She has spent £40,000 on preparing to export to the EU after Brexit and had been confident after this week’s catch that she had all the documentation she needed.
Mr Rees-Mogg told the House of Commons: “The fishing issue was covered a moment ago by the secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs and perhaps the honourable gentleman should have tuned into that debate instead of bringing it up during Business Questions.
“The government is tackling this issue and is moving as quickly as it can.
“The key is that we’ve got our fish back! They’re now British fish and they are better and happier for it.”
Commons speaker Lindsay Hoyle said: “Obviously there’s overwhelming evidence for that.”
Ms Edwards expressed frustrations about the trading arrangements and told of her worry about the future of her business.
She told BBC Wales: “I can’t do this again next week. I need a break. But I can’t leave the fishermen without incomes for long.”
She added: “We’re a tiny little Welsh company, its family run – we’re fourth generation running it. We can’t afford to take the hit.”
Responding to Jacob Rees-Mogg’s comments YesCymru said: “Good grief. We don’t have to have @Jacob_Rees_Mogg represent our nation in any fashion. We can forge our own path. We can be an independent Wales.”
Marc Davies said: “I’m sure the fish are very happy to be stuck in a container, rotting away as they can’t be sold anywhere.”
David Pickernell said: “Well, looking at this, they probably are happier, safe in the knowledge that as they get trawled to their inevitable doom, and left unsold on a dock in Grimsby, they still have IQs greater than this chief recruiter for @YesCymru.”
Broadcaster Toby Earle said: “Unsold fish are rotting on docks, seafood companies are hitting the wall, but Jacob Rees-Mogg says what matters is that fish are now ‘happier’ because they’re ‘British’”.
The director of a shellfish company that processes scallops from Wales said exporting to Europe has become a “nightmare” because of the deal with the EU and that the business might be unviable if the situation continued.
Dave Swiggs, of Fowey Shellfish Company, has stopped buying scallops from fishermen because he cannot guarantee to get the product to the Continent since new trading arrangements came into force between the UK and Europe.
Before the agreement came into force on January 1, the company could process and pack scallops one day and deliver them to its customers the next with very little paperwork. But it is now it is finding it difficult to fulfil orders.