Britain’s shellfish producers are threatening legal action against the Westminster government, claiming they have been misled over post-Brexit arrangements with the EU.

The shellfish industry, which includes aquaculture and fisheries businesses, has suffered more than most other seafood sectors since the transition period ended on 31 December  because live mussels, cockles, oysters and other molluscs are no longer allowed to enter the EU unless they are from waters with the highest purity rating.

A solicitor representing 20 shellfish firms  told The Guardian newspaper that the government had shown “negligence and maladministration” and that a group action was being considered for compensation.

Separately, an exporter of mussels sent a legal letter to the secretary of state saying the firm will sue for “substantial damages” if the shellfish market with the EU is not opened up by September, the paper reported.

George Eustice, officials and other ministers have claimed the bloc originally planned to let this trade resume after Brexit and that it altered its position earlier this year. Brussels has consistently denied the British government’s claims and said the rules for third countries such as the UK are clear and longstanding.

Andrew Oliver, a partner at Humber-based  Andrew Jackson LLP, said he was representing 20 shellfish firms considering possible legal action against the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: “We are taking a leading counsel’s opinion as to the government’s actions in regard to the EU trade agreement and the assurances given by the government… we feel that there has been negligence and maladministration regarding the government’s negotiations on the agreement and its treatment of our clients.”

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