The economic value of fisheries in UK waters for EU vessels represents 637m EUR[8].

This represents on average 12% of Member States’ overall total catches in value – although this varies significantly among Member States, ranging from less than 1% for Spain to 33% for Denmark, 38% for Ireland and 43% for Belgium.

Conversely, the UK catches €110 million in value of landings in the EU27’s exclusive economic zone (10% of its total catches), although access to EU waters in the Channel is of significant importance to certain fishing communities in the UK.

Furthermore, a large share (more than 2/3) of UK fisheries production is exported to the EU market, while most locally consumed products in the UK are supplied by non-EU trade partners (Iceland, Norway) or by processing plants in the EU (Germany, Poland).

What are the consequences of the UK leaving the EU?

The UK will leave the Common Fisheries Policy on 1 January 2021 – the EU’s joint legal framework providing for equal access to EU waters for Member States, as well as stable arrangements for quota-sharing and the sustainable management of resources.

By leaving the Common Fisheries Policy, the UK becomes an independent coastal state. This changes the setting for fisheries management in the North-East Atlantic Ocean and in the North Sea. The EU and UK will become responsible, under international law, for jointly managing approximately 100 shared fish stocks. This is an unprecedented challenge in terms of international cooperation in fisheries management.

UK waters (i.e. the territorial sea up to 12 nautical miles and adjacent exclusive economic zone up to 200 nautical miles) will no longer be part of EU waters. In the absence of any provisions to the contrary, access to each other’s waters would no longer be guaranteed.

What does the draft EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement cover?

The Agreement sets out new arrangements for the joint and sustainable management of some hundred shared fish stocks in EU and UK waters, in full respect of each parties’ rights and obligations as independent coastal States, and based on best available scientific advice.

It sets out new provisions on reciprocal access to waters in the Exclusive Economic Zone and in the 6-12 mile nautical zone, as well as on new stable arrangements for sharing quotas.

Will EU fishing communities still have the same level of access to UK waters?

Under the Agreement there will be a gradual phasing in of any changes of quota shares and provisions on access to waters. After a period of stability of 5,5 years, during which the current rules will remain in place regarding reciprocal access, the agreement provides for annual consultations to establish the level and conditions of reciprocal access to each Party’s Exclusive Economic Zones and territorial waters.

There will be gradual changes to the quota shares for total allowable catches (TACs) of the shared stocks that also include stocks managed trilaterally (e.g. with Norway) or in multilateral settings. These changes will take into account the need to guarantee a sustainable management of marine resources, and to preserve the activities and livelihoods of fishing communities reliant on those waters and resources.

Will they still have access to the same levels of quotas?

The Agreement provides for a gradual change of quota-sharing arrangements. The agreed reduction of EU quota shares takes account of the need to ensure an equitable burden-sharing among Member States affected and the need to preserve the livelihoods of fishing communities reliant on those waters and resources

The agreed quota shares are set out in the annexes of the Agreement, thereby providing for long-term clarity.

Why do the parties need annual consultations?

The EU and the UK will hold annual consultations to jointly determine the total allowable catch (TAC) for each stock – i.e. the maximum quantities of a stock (or stocks) of a particular description that may be caught over a given period. This shall be done taking into account scientific advice on conservation needs, as well as relevant socio-economic factors. These ‘TACs’ will then be allocated to each party in accordance with the quota shares set out in the agreement. However, if the parties fail to agree on a TAC, a provisional TAC will be defined corresponding to the level advised by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) until an agreement is reached.

Access to each other’s waters will be granted to make use of the available fishing opportunities. After an adjustment period, when current full access remains in place, levels and conditions of reciprocal access to waters will be decided in annual consultations.

What happens if one party decides to withhold or withdraw access?

After the adjustment period, if one party withdraws access to the other party due to a lack of agreement on total allowable catches, the other party may apply compensatory measures, including the suspension of tariff concessions for fisheries products or the suspension of access, in part or in whole, to its waters. Such compensatory measures shall be proportionate to the economic and societal difficulties caused by the withdrawal of access.

A party can also take measures, for example, to suspend parts of the Agreement, under the general safeguard clause of the Agreement, in case the closure of waters creates serious or social difficulties for fisheries activities and the communities that depend on them.

Does the Agreement extend to the UK’s Crown Dependencies (Jersey, Guernsey, Isle of Man)

The Crown Dependencies are not part of the UK, but represented internationally by the UK. They are subject to specific rules in the Agreement, safeguarding the rights of vessels that are currently fishing in these waters.

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