AN oyster farming family which is believed to be the oldest in the world is expecting to lose a major slice of its business because of the “catastrophe” of Brexit.

And while new red tape has caused the most damage to Richard Haward’s Oysters– an eighth generation oyster farming business in Mersea – the decision by the EU to ban unpurified oysters from countries outside the bloc has also caused immense damage to the business.

Tom Haward, the current owner of Richard Haward’s Oysters, said: “I saw Brexit as a catastrophe for exporting. What is happening now is exactly what I predicted would happen four years ago.

“I started to scale back how much we sold into Europe. We haven’t sold a single oyster to the EU this year.

“We will probably lose about £150,000 worth of sales this year into the EU and that is us scaling down. It’s about ten per cent of what our trade would be and that is us planning for Brexit by scaling back that bit.”

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The business is also 80 to 90 per cent down due to the coronavirus crisis.

Tom Haward (2)

He added that competitors in Denmark, Ireland and France now have the edge – given that paperwork will add about 20 per cent to his costs.

“Brexit together with the pandemic is a catastrophe,” said Mr Haward.

“What has happened is we have lost options so our market has shrunk even more.

“If we were able to sell into Europe, even if we were unable to sell domestically, I could have got in touch with European customers and say we have some amazing stuff and would you like something. But that option has been pulled away from us.

“So our options for selling has become even smaller, which is ironic given the Government has been saying we are a global Britain.

“The fact is we have become even more insular. We can’t compete.

“At the end of the day it is all about costs. The paperwork has created way more cost and that means we can’t compete in price with EU competitors.”

Tom Haward (3)

The family, which has been farming since the 1700s around Mersea on the River Blackwater – where the oysters are credited as some of the finest in the world – says it seems the UK has turned its back on the EU rankles.

“I am angry about Brexit,” said Mr Haward.“What was said was a lie and it’s offensive because it is intellectually vaguest.

“And it insults my intelligence as someone who has been researching this for years to ensure we are best prepared and empty slogans is not leadership. “Talking about oven ready Brexit and all that nonsense is not leadership.

“Leadership is looking at where flaws are and getting the best people around to help get through those issues.

“Propaganda and nationalistic rhetoric doesn’t save a business.”

Tom Haward (8)

Where Mr Haward’s options for sales growth have been made even smaller is the ban on unpurified molluscs.

The EU has told British fishermen they are indefinitely banned from selling live mussels, oysters, clams, cockles and scallops to its member states.

British fishermen are not allowed to transport the animals to the EU unless they have already been treated in purification tanks.

But the industry says it does not have enough tanks ready and the process can slow exports, making them less viable.