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Some changes, such as  an agreement on how to share fishing stocks with the EU, are a result of the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) while others, such the UK becoming a third country for fisheries exports to the EU, would have happened regardless of the terms of the TCA.

Fisheries is a small part of the UK economy. However, the economic activity from fisheries is concentrated in specific coastal areas, where it is important both socially and economically. Fisheries featured prominently in the Brexit debate. Fishers, both quota and non-quota sectors, were expecting greater fishing opportunities. The processing sector and shellfish exporters concerns were about access to export markets and potential border delays.

Agreement between the UK and the EU was reached on 24 December 2020. Heading Five of Part Two of the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) covers fisheries. Under the agreement 25% overall of the existing EU quota in UK waters will be transferred to the UK over a 5 ½ year period to 30 June 2026, with specific percentages of annually agreed Total Allowable Catches (TACs) agreed for each fishing stock. Mutual access to each other’s waters will be through a licencing system for fishing vessels. After 2026 negotiations on access and share of stocks will take place on an annual basis, although provisions exist for multiannual agreements. Any disagreement will be resolved through arbitration and provisions exists for trade measures to be applied by either party if the Agreement is breached.

The end of the transition period has resulted in a number of significant impacts for the industry, including problems and delays at borders and a ban on GB and Crown Dependencies exports to the EU of live bivalve molluscs for depuration. This has resulted in the Government setting up a £23m support fund for fish exporters, which has been extended to include the catching and shellfish sector.

For an overview of the negotiations prior to 2021 see Commons Briefing Paper The UK-EU future relationship: the March 2020 EU draft treaty and negotiations update. Further background can be found in the Commons Briefing Papers on Fisheries and Brexit, Fisheries Management in the UK and UK Fisheries Statistics


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