A FAMILY-OWNED smokehouse that has exported its salmon from the north-east of Scotland to three dozen countries for more than 30 years has accused the UK Government of “gross incompetence” for not being ready for post-Brexit trading.

The brick kilns at John Ross Jr (Aberdeen) have been used to process salmon for 114 years but the company has been unable to export its produce to mainland Europe since the beginning of the year.

John Ross sales director Victoria Leigh-Pearson has written to Business Secretary Alok Sharma to say recent months have been the hardest since the firm “first opened our doors”.

However, she said that hardship was not caused by the “inevitable bureaucracy” that was associated with Brexit – which the company had expected and accepted – “but because we have had to endure the Government issuing a barrage of useless information, none of which has added any clarity or value to businesses such as ours”.

Leigh-Pearson, whose firm holds a royal warrant, said it had seen its perishable exports stuck in transit for more than a week after following guidance issued by Sharma’s department.

“Entire trucks are currently being rejected without explanation by the French customs authority,” she said.

“Our hauliers have now pulled their services as such a backlog has been created. Today we’ve even had confirmation that the IT systems of France and the UK are incompatible

“After four years you only establish this now?”

She said that in the lead up to Brexit the company had been given incorrect information, and only in the last few days after investigating “far and wide” had they managed to find the clarity to allow them to trade.

“The advice on offer has fallen woefully short when it comes to one of the most important commercial issues of our time, and the level of support the Government has provided business – certainly ours at least – amounts to gross incompetence,” Leigh-Pearson said.

“Your department has had four years to lay the foundations for a smooth and seamless transition, so why are so many exporters facing a commercial crisis right now?”

“You may be celebrating the fact that a ‘deal’ has been done, but the futile nature of the paperwork and the extensive barriers that have been created merely take us back in time, devastating UK businesses along the way.”

She added: “I am not proud of the independence our country now asserts to have reclaimed following leaving the EU.

“In fact, I am ashamed of what this Government has caused and astonished by its utter incompetence at leading businesses through this nightmare.

“Your so-called deal is worthless if this situation is not fixed immediately, and unless you put in place measures to address the issues that continue to unfold on a daily basis.

“Moreover, as a seafood exporter, it feels as though our own government has thrown us into the cold Atlantic waters without a lifejacket.”

A UK Government spokesperson said they were working closely with the industry to understand and address the issues they were facing.

“This includes ensuring that the UK and French systems are functioning properly to allow for quick and easy processing of information,” they said.

“We are contacting exporters, their representatives and transporters to help them understand the requirements to keep their goods moving.

“It is vital that exporters check they have entered in details correctly and ensure that they have provided the transporter of the goods with the correct documentation.”