Ministers introduce new law scrapping automatic right of European boats to fish in UK waters

Posted On: 
29th January 2020

A new law scrapping the automatic right of European boats to fish in British waters is being introduced by the Government.

Scottish inshore fishermen at work off the east coast of Scotland, near Bass rock.

The Fisheries Bill will outline a legal guarantee that the UK will quit the Common Fisheries Policy when it stops following the EU's rules at the end of 2020.

It means that UK ministers, rather than Brussels, will decide which foreign vessels can catch fish in British waters from 2021 onwards.

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Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers said: "This new Fisheries Bill takes back control of our waters, enabling the UK to create a sustainable, profitable fishing industry for our coastal communities, whilst securing the long term health of British fisheries.

“Leaving the EU’s failed Common Fisheries Policy is one of the most important benefits of Brexit. It means we can create a fairer system which will allow marine habitats to thrive, with new powers to support our fishing sector and conserve our wonderful Blue Belt at home and abroad.”

Fisheries minister George Eustice said: “For many people in coastal communities, taking back control and leaving the Common Fisheries Policy is at the heart of getting Brexit done, and this Bill delivers for the environment, fishermen and the Union.”

The Common Fisheries Policy was previously dubbed the EU’s most “unpopular and discredited” policy by the Scottish Government and faced criticism over the equal access it gave to to UK waters for European fishing boats.

But earlier this week, Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar suggested that the UK may have to make major concessions on fishing in order to secure access to European financial services in the upcoming trade talks.

Barrie Deas, chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, said: “The central purpose of the Bill is to give UK ministers powers to manage UK fisheries after we leave the Common Fisheries Policy. We very much welcome that.”

A move towards ‘climate-smart fishing’ will also be considered within the draft law to account for environmental impacts of the industry.