Brexit fish trade agreements assessment

Assessing the options and implications for fish trade agreements post-EU exit

UK waters hold important fishing grounds, and EU fishing vessels catch more than half the fish and shellfish from the UK Exclusive Economic Zone. This has led the UK fishing industry to call for change when the UK leaves the EU and its Common Fisheries Policy.

ABPmer was contracted by Marine Scotland to investigate how trade patterns for the UK fishing and seafood industry may change post-EU exit, and to quantify the wider economic impact on Scotland.

The key elements of fisheries production and trade relate to:

  • Quota allocation – the distribution of total allowable catches and quotas for shared stocks between the UK and EU;
  • Trade arrangements – including tariffs and non-tariff measures such as regulatory burdens and delays.

Modelling was carried out using the Trade Analysis Partial Equilibrium Sussex model for ten species, to explore the changes to trade patterns under four scenarios:

  • Global free trade: no tariffs on any trade, non-tariff measures low, the UK has a higher quota share under the principle of zonal attachment;
  • EU-Norway type arrangement: tariffs on fish and seafood at a similar level to the current EU-Norway agreement; the UK has a higher quota share under zonal attachment;
  • No deal with increased UK quota: fish trade with the EU under World Trade Organisation tariff levels, non-tariff measures high; the UK has a higher quota share under zonal attachment;
  • No deal with current quota levels: fish trade with the EU under WTO tariff levels; non-tariff measures are high; no change to current quota sharing arrangements.

The economic impacts of each scenario on turnover, gross value added and employment in Scotland were quantified using multipliers. Input-output analysis enabled the most affected sectors of the wider economy to be identified.

Modelling the free trade scenario showed an increase in exports and imports, but a decline in UK production.

Any introduction of tariffs and non-tariff measures would be negative for the UK, but if the country takes an assertive approach to quota sharing arrangements, this can increase output over 10%. However, impacts are not evenly distributed across the UK industry, with parts of the fleet fishing quota species (e.g. mackerel, hake, saithe) enjoying potential increases in production from zonal attachment, whilst those that fish non-quota species (such as crab or scallop), as well as the important salmon aquaculture production, suffer tariffs on exports without the increase in production.

The potential benefits for the UK of moving to zonal attachment for quota shares are offset by losses for the EU, which is unlikely to accept the move without retaliation or seeking compensation elsewhere in Brexit negotiations.

Image © Andrew Pearson