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Fisheries featured prominently in the Brexit debate before the UK left the EU and the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). Fishers, both quota and non-quota sectors, were expecting greater fishing opportunities as result of leaving the EU. The processing sector and shellfish exporters concerns were about access to export markets and potential border delays.

Agreement between the UK and the EU on trade was reached on 24 December 2020.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. Specific percentages are set out for each shared fishing stock. Mutual access to each other’s waters continues under 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. Following Brexit, the UK carries out annual bilateral and multilateral negotiations on fisheries with the EU, Norway and other coastal states.

There are continued challenges for the fisheries industry in a number of areas, including exporting to the EU and dealing with the new customs and sanitary requirements. There are also proposals for Highly Protected Marine Areas which have raised concerns in the fishing sector, and a number of regulatory changes for smaller vessels. 

Further Reading

For an overview of the negotiations on fisheries as part of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement see Commons Briefing Paper on UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement: Fisheries.

The Commons Briefing Paper on UK Fisheries Statistics, provides data on the UK fishing and fisheries sector up to 2021.

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