The Politics and Governance of UK Fisheries after Brexit

AuthorArno van der Zwet,Christopher Huggins,Craig McAngus,John Connolly
Publication Date01 September 2018
Date01 September 2018
Fishing is on the frontline of Brexit
politics. While the shing industry
represents a relatively small part of
the UK’s economy (less than 0.05 per
cent of GDP), it has deep political signicance,
not least in many coastal communities where
it is economically important and forms an
important part of cultural identity. Fisheries
featured prominently during the EU referendum
campaign and continues to be a key
battleground during the Brexit process.
Fisheries represents one of the UK’s most
‘Europeanised’ policy areas. The UK is currently a
member of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP)
meaning decisions on UK quotas are taken at
the European level. Ninety-two per cent of UK
shermen voted to leave the EU (McAngus,
2016). With UK shermen able to currently catch
about two-fths of the Total Allowable Catch
(TAC) in UK waters, they believe that leaving the
EU and the CFP would mean they are able to
catch more sh, and thus boost the prospects
of their industry and local communities.
Complex reality
In reality, the picture is more complex and the
shing industry goes beyond those who catch
sh at sea. For example, much of the industry’s
economic output is generated by the seafood
processing sector, which relies on tari-free
trade with the rest of the EU and where almost
half of the workforce are EU/EEA migrants. There
is also a diversity of interests within the catching
sector itself. Much of the shellsh catch is not
subject to EU quotas, for example, and so would
not benet from a redistribution of quota.
Rather, export markets are vital for this part of
the catching sector, meaning frictionless trade
The Politics and
Governance of UK
Fisheries after Brexit
Fishing is a relatively small part of the UK economy but played a
major role in the debate ahead of the vote to leave the European
Union in 2016. So how will Brexit affect the British fishing industry?
Craig McAngus, Christopher Huggins, John Connolly, and Arno van
der Zwet examine the options.
of this valuable and perishable commodity is a
Earlier this year, the Environment Secretary
Michael Gove assured the catching sector
that the CFP would no longer apply during
the transition period and that the UK would
become an independent coastal state. Yet,
the UK Government then conceded that the
CFP would eectively remain in place until
the end of 2020 in order to ensure continued
tari-free trade during the transition period.
Fishing groups such as the Scottish Fishermen’s
Federation responded by arguing that the
rights of Scottish shers were being sacriced
on the altar of Brexit politics, adding further
strain to an already tense relationship between
government and industry. Assurances were
then given by the UK Government that full
coastal status will happen after the transition.
This means the UK would have full sovereignty
over its waters, known as its Exclusive Economic
Zone (EEZ) (see Figure 1), and would enter talks
with other coastal states in order to discuss
reciprocal access to stocks in each others’ EEZs.
It remains to be seen what shape UK
sheries policy will take post-Brexit. In its 25-
Iceland Faroe Islands
PI September 2018.indd 8 27/07/2018 15:12

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