The Brexit deal and UK fisheries—has reality matched the rhetoric?

Bryce Donald Stewart, Chris Williams, Richard Barnes, Suzannah Walmsley, Griffin Carpenter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Fisheries management has been a strongly contested aspect of the UK’s position in the EU since UK accession, with the fishing industry frequently questioning both the efficacy and fairness of arrangements. During the campaign for UK exit (Brexit) from the EU, and the subsequent negotiations of a new legal and political relationship from 2016 to 2020, senior UK political leaders strongly committed to deliver radically changed fisheries arrangements with respect to the three central issues: regulatory autonomy; access to waters; and quota shares, all while maintaining minimal trade impacts. The Trade and Cooperation Agreement diverges from this Brexit rhetoric. While some regulatory independence has been achieved, UK fisheries management continues in a state of interdependence and significant EU access to UK waters remains, even in the 6–12 nautical mile territorial waters. While the UK gained an increase in quota shares which is estimated to reach 107 thousand tonnes of landed weight annually by 2025 (an increase of 21.3% for quota species and 16.9% for all species, or 17.8% and 12.4% by value), this pales in comparison to the UK Government’s stated ambitions for zonal attachment (achieving 68% by weight and by value - a potential shortfall of 229,000 tonnes / £281 million). This modest change explains the negative reaction of the fishing industry and claims of betrayal in the face of the UK Government’s announcement of a “successful” deal. The stark delivery gap between rhetoric and reality means the UK government faces a challenging start to managing fisheries outside of the Common Fisheries Policy.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalMaritime Studies
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2022


  • Fisheries management
  • Seafood
  • Trade
  • Politics
  • Zonal attachment

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