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Smaller fishers set to lose out from Brexit

A major new piece of research from the New Economics Foundation explores scenarios for what Brexit will mean for the UK’s fishing industry.

Few industries are as totemic of the UK’s relationship with the EU as fishing.  Since the Brexit vote, Ministers have made hyperbolic promises to the UK fishing industry that Brexit will deliver a “sea of opportunity”. But the new NEF report – ‘Not in the same boat…’ – shows that as always, reality is more complex. 

Download ‘Not in the same boat’: the economic impact of Brexit across UK fishing fleets.

NEF looked at five possible scenarios for different ‘types’ of Brexit to see what it might mean for the UK fishing fleet, big and small. The study looked not just at the extent of UK waters – the main lens used by more simplistic analyses – but also the expected impact of broader economic impacts like the potential imposition of export tariffs.

Only under one scenario – which assumes  the UK prioritises fishing in negotiations above just about every other industry – does the UK fleet as a whole ‘win’. Under every other scenario, some fishers, mainly small boats, will do far worse. Huge existing imbalances between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ may well be exacerbated.

The report also highlights the danger of overfishing as a result of UK politicians and industry leaders promising more fishing quota, while the EU is promising not to reduce quota to its boats. An increase in overfishing would be both environmentally and economically disastrous for all concerned, as the report findings show.

The report makes a series of recommendations aimed at securing a healthier future for the British fishing fleet through Brexit and beyond. These include:

  • Dropping combative rhetoric in Brexit negotiations and focusing on a co-operative approach
  • Using any increase in quota to support the smaller boats which traditionally lose out
  • Seeking a post-Brexit transition deal for at least two years
  • Securing access to the EU market with minimum tariffs and non-tariff barriers
  • Empowering fishers through co-management and increased representation for the small-scale fleet
  • Generating funding for management through a landings tax

The report has been written and extensively researched by Griffin Carpenter, Senior Researcher at the New Economics Foundation.  Griffin is one of the UK and EU’s leading experts on sustainable fisheries management. 

Published Tuesday 28 November 2017

Good Food Trade Campaign: Campaigning for good trade that benefits people and the planet at home and overseas.

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