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The UK's top fish and chip shop has been crowned, but could a no-deal Brexit spell the end of Cod and Chip Friday?

Last week saw the annual National Fish and Chip Awards, and everyone at Sustainable Fish Cities sends their congratulations to Krispies in Exmouth who have scooped this year's top award.

Could we be switching to hake in the event of no-deal Brexit? Credit: Ruth Westcott

Could we be switching to hake in the event of no-deal Brexit? Credit: Ruth Westcott

The awards are a great boost local fish businesses, and recognise those operating with responsibility to future generations since sustainability is a key part of the award criteria.

At Sustainable Fish Cities we are concerned about fish and chip shops keeping their fryers full after Brexit. Our love of cod is met by imports – mainly from Iceland but also Norway and China. Only 6% is from our own stocks, which declined steadily over decades thanks to overfishing and despite recent signs that cod stocks in the North Sea are starting to recover, it is still considered one of the species in shortest supply in the UK (See this Parliamentary Question released by Defra last week).

At the moment, the EU has a trade deal with Iceland, and because they are members of the European Economic Area (EEA) and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), the EU gives Iceland preferential access to the EU market for cod and reduces their tariffs on fish products. 

Unfortunately, it looks like the UK will not be able to simply roll over trade agreements it had thanks to its EU membership. Liam Fox has said that he is confident that Britain could still replicate the EU’s ‘five most important’ deals by March 29. But he didn’t mention the Iceland deal as one of those.

If we leave with no deal, we will be trading on WTO ‘most favoured nation’ terms. WTO tariffs on fish products range from 0% for some fresh products to 25% for highly processed products. As an example, for the top five fish products exported from the UK to the EU in 2014, the tariffs ranged from 2% on Atlantic salmon to 20% on frozen mackerel. This week legal experts warned that if the UK tries to simply rely on the EU's tarrifs schedule it could lead to disputes or legal challenges.

As consumers we can help by swapping our fish choices. But as constituents we can ask our MPs to support a post-Brexit fishing policy whioch will see the recovery of our own fish stocks in the shortest time possible. We would like to see the Bill amended to give more of our fish quota to small-scale fishing fleets, measuring stocks properly and fishing at rates we know fish stocks can replenish. If you'd like to support our seas, please do write to your MP.

And when you're next in your local chipper, you could swap your cod for haddock (which can come from Scotland – ask your chipper owner first) - or UK landed hake.

Published Monday 28 January 2019

Sustainable Fish: A campaign to protect precious marine environments and fishing livelihoods, and call for fish to be bought from sustainable sources. We want to show what can be done if people and organisations make a concerted effort to change their buying habits.

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