“Some industries that are economically insignificant have enormous public resonance,” said Bronwen Maddox, director of the Institute for Government, an independent think tank in London. “And because of that, they have political influence that is way out of proportion.”
It isn’t fishermen who are pushing for a kind of exemption from Brexit. It is a group of fish processors, an industry that is thriving in Grimsby, where fish from all over the world are gutted, packaged and sold to wholesalers. This town of 27,000 is a hub in a global supply chain.
“We haven’t fished here for 25 years,” said Simon Dwyer, who leads Seafood Grimsby & Humber Group, the organization arguing for a special free trade deal. “We’ve reinvented ourselves.”
The once-bustling docks here would be pretty desolate were it not for 70 processing warehouses with some 5,000 employees, about one-third of whom are foreign nationals, mostly Poles and Lithuanians. To stay competitive, these companies want the kind of frictionless trade and immigration policy that they currently enjoy, and will probably lose, after Brexit.