NFFO/UKAFPO Reaction to Coronavirus Support Measures

27th March 2020 in Coronavirus, Domestic Fisheries Policy

Until yesterday, provision for the self-employed was the biggest gap in the UK Government’s unprecedented package of financial support measures to mitigate the economic shock caused by the coronavirus health emergency. There is no doubting the scale of the ambition and the clear intention behind the steps taken so far.

NFFO/UKAFPO Reaction to Coronavirus Support Measures

What is less clear, at least at this stage, is the extent to which the support measures hit their target so far as self-employed share-fishermen are concerned. Measures developed at speed often have flaws and limitations which become evident as they are implemented.

Package for the Self-Employed

In summary, the Government has undertaken to:

  • The self-employed will be able to apply for a taxable grant worth 80% of their average monthly profits over the last 3 years, up to £2500 a month.
  • This scheme will be open for three months but can be extended “if necessary”.
  • The scheme will be open to anyone with trading profits up to £50,000, available to anyone who makes the majority of their income from self-employment, and only open to people with a self-assessment tax return in 2019.
  • 95% of self-employed people will benefit from the scheme. The 5% who are not covered are the wealthiest self-employed people who earn an average of £200,000.
  • The scheme will be up and running by the beginning of June. The Government will look to get it set up faster but cannot make any promises.
  • To make sure no one misses out, the Government has decided to allow anyone who missed the filling deadline in January, four weeks from today to submit their tax return.
  • The first payment will come in June but the payment will be backdated to capture payments for March, April and May. To assist people with the late payment, the Government also said that income tax payments due in July can also be deferred to the end of January 2021
  • Unlike the employee scheme, the self-employed can continue to work as they receive support.

NFFO/UKAFPO

Against this background, NFFO and UKAFPO, representing the bulk of the fishing industry in England, Wales and Northern Ireland:

  • Share the Government’s goal of keeping businesses in the sector intact, so that they can survive and thrive after the pandemic is over
  • Acknowledge the scale and ambition of the financial support measures announced to date
  • Appreciate that the Government recognises fishing as a unique, important, and politically totemic sector, with a critical role in the food security of the nation
  • Believe that the measures to support the self-employed will be welcomed with relief by many share-fishermen
  • Reserve judgment on the extent to which the measures provide an adequate fit with the unique contours of the fishing industry
  • Commit to working with Government on refining, and where necessary supplementing the package announced so far

Regulatory Easement and Other Support Measures

In addition to direct financial support, the Government is working urgently on a range of other steps that can be taken to support the fishing industry through this profound economic shock.

A long list of potential interventions has been made from suggestions submitted and provisionally ranked in terms of viability. A working group, involving key industry organisations and government officials is analysing how to put some of the measures into place as soon as is practical. NFFO and UKAFPO are amongst those represented on the working group. The aim is to identify measures:

  • That would be of direct assistance to the industry, or parts of the industry, without creating adverse impacts
  • Could be justified as proportionate in the circumstances
  • Do not generate undesirable unintended consequences

NFFO/UKAFPO 27th March 2020