The fisheries sector and preparing for EU Exit

If the UK leaves the EU on 29 March without a deal, there may be changes that affect your fisheries business.

Access to waters

Access to waters will change if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

Rules for access to UK waters from 29 March 2019

The UK will control and manage access to fish in UK waters, and be responsible for managing our:

  • territorial waters (out to 12 nautical miles)
  • Exclusive Economic Zone (out to 200 nautical miles or the median line with other states)

Non-UK vessels will no longer have the automatic right to fish in UK waters.

Non-UK vessels will still be able to sail through UK waters under their right of safe passage set out in The United Nations Convention of the Sea (UNCLOS).

EU and third country waters

There will be no automatic access for UK-registered vessels to fish in EU or third country waters (subject to any existing agreements covering territorial waters).

Future access to fish in EU and other coastal state waters in the event of a no deal scenario is still under negotiation. UK fishermen who want to prepare for all EU exit scenarios should apply for an IMO number now.

Western Waters

The current Western Waters effort regime and days at sea effort baselines will continue to apply in UK waters from 29 March 2019.

Fishing in UK waters

There will be no change to your rights and responsibilities if you have a UK-registered vessel fishing in UK waters. You must continue to comply with the law and the conditions of your licence, including the economic link criteriaand discard policy.

Quota allocations and fishing opportunities

The UK fisheries administrators will tell you what your allocation will be. There will be no automatic right for the UK to exchange fishing opportunities (quota and effort) with EU member states, and no automatic right for EU member states to exchange fishing opportunities with the UK.

Control and Enforcement regime

There will be increased sea surveillance provided by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) with support from other bodies including the Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authorities (IFCAs), the Royal Navy and Border Force, increased aerial surveillance provided by the Maritime and Coastguard agency, and increased numbers of warranted Marine Enforcement Officers.

Regional fisheries management organisations

The UK will join all relevant regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) as quickly as possible after EU Exit. The joining process may take up to six months so there may be a gap in our membership. During this time, UK vessels may not be able to fish in international waters covered by RFMOs.

Access to ports

UK vessels will no longer have automatic rights to land fish in any EU port unless there is a case of distress or an unexpected event. All landings must go through an EU designated point of entry.

EU and third country vessels landing into UK ports

Non-UK vessels will no longer have automatic rights to land in any UK ports unless there is a case of distress or an unexpected event. EU vessels fishing in North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission Convention Area and landing into the UK will need to complete a Port State Control 1 form.

Importing and exporting

There are some actions you’ll need to take if you import or export products between the UK and EU.

Preparing for disruption to trade at the UK-EU border

To minimise disruption to your business at border points you should take the following steps:

  1. Get a UK Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number so you can continue to import or export goods and apply for authorisations.
  2. Decide if you want to hire an import-export agent, or make the declarations yourself.
  3. Contact the organisation that moves your goods (for example, a haulage firm) to find out what information they need to make the declarations for your goods, or if you will need to make them yourself.

If you do not import and export products directly check that any agent or business you use is prepared.

Read the guidance on simplified customs procedures for trading with the EU if we leave without a deal.

Further information is provided in HMRC’s advice for businesses trading with the EU.

Exporting fish and fishery products to the EU

To export wild-caught marine fish or fishery products to the EU if there’s no Brexit deal you’ll need:

You may also need:

  • a prior notification form
  • a pre-landing declaration
  • a storage document
  • a processing statement

The EU uses these documents to monitor fishing activity and to detect illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

You’ll need to create these documents using forms on GOV.UK. The export and import guide gives more information on this.

Direct landings

Vessel owners or skippers making direct landings off UK vessels into EU ports will need to provide a catch certificate and pre-notify EU designated ports 4 hours before you plan to land. The discard ban will remain the same.

You will not need an Export Health Certificate for direct landings in an EU port from a UK flagged fishing vessel.

Importing EU-caught fish and fishery products to the UK

If you import fish to the UK from the EU you’ll need a catch certificate and supporting documents validated by the country of export. These will vary as they are produced by the exporting country. If the fish you are importing has been stored, you’ll need a storage document and if it’s been processed, you’ll need a processing statement from the exporter.

You will not need an Export Health Certificate for imports of fish or fish products from the EU for at least 6 months from 29 March 2019.

Eels and eel products

Trade in the European eel (Anguilla anguilla), within and outside the EU, will remain subject to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). This means the UK will not be able to import or export European eel unless following CITES processes.

European Maritime and Fisheries Fund

The UK government has guaranteed that all European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) projects approved before 31 December 2020 will be fully funded.

Labelling and marketing of fishery and aquaculture

The rules for what you must show on food labels will change for some food and drink products if the UK leaves the EU without a deal on 29 March 2019. Some of the new rules will come into effect from exit day. For others, you’ll have longer to update your food labels.

The labelling requirements for fishery and aquaculture products continue to apply.

Food labelling changes after Brexit explains in detail how the labelling might be affected.

Your employees

There are certain schemes and processes you should be aware of if you employ people.

Employing EU workers

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, EU citizens who are resident in the UK before 29 March 2019 will be able to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to get settled or pre-settled status, which will mean they can continue to live, work and study in the UK.

The scheme will be open to applications from 30 March 2019 and EU workers must apply by 31 December 2020 if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

You can use the EU Settlement Scheme guidance for employers to give further information to your employees.

Employing seasonal workers

You’ll still be able to employ seasonal workers from the EU. European Temporary Leave to Remain will allow EEA citizens arriving in the UK after 29 March 2019 to live, work and study in the UK if there’s no Brexit deal.

EEA citizens who are granted European Temporary Leave to Remain will be able to stay in the UK for 36 months from the date of their application.

Applying for skilled-work or unskilled-work visas

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, there will be a new process for EU citizens arriving in the UK before 31 December 2020. From 1 January 2021, a new skills-based immigration system will launch.

For non-EU nationals, EU Exit will not affect the application process for work visas.

Trade agreements

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, there will be no implementation period. In this scenario, the government will seek to bring into force UK-third country agreements from exit day, or as soon as possible afterwards.

These new agreements will replicate existing EU agreements as far as possible. Where replacement trade agreements are not agreed, trade would take place on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms with that country. Details of each agreement will be shared with parliament and the public when they have been agreed.

Read the guidance on existing free trade agreements if there’s no Brexit deal

Data protection

Your business will need to make sure it follows data protection law if the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019 without a deal.

If you operate across the EU or exchange personal data with organisations in the EEA, there may be changes that you need to make before the UK leaves the EU.

Read the 6 step process and the data protection guidance from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

You can also check if you can use standard contractual clauses (SCCs) for transfers from the EEA to the UK.

More information

Visit Prepare your business for EU Exit to find more guidance on policy changes relevant to your sector and sign up for updates.

Published 1 March 2019
Last updated 12 March 2019 
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