Prepare your fisheries business for Brexit


  1. Stay up to date
  2. Access to waters
  3. Quota allocations and fishing opportunities
  4. Licensing arrangements
  5. Access to EU ports
  6. Regional fisheries management organisations
  7. Importing and exporting
  8. European Maritime and Fisheries Fund
  9. Labelling and marketing of fishery and aquaculture
  10. Your employees

Stay up to date

A Brexit deal has been agreed but needs to be ratified. The UK could still leave the EU with no deal on 31 October if the UK and EU do not approve and sign the withdrawal agreement.

This page tells you how to prepare for Brexit. It will be updated if anything changes. Sign up for email alerts to get the latest information.

Sign up for Defra alerts about Brexit and the fisheries and marine sector.

Access to waters

As an independent coastal state after Brexit, the UK government will be responsible for managing the UK’s territorial waters (out to 12 nautical miles) and the Exclusive Economic Zone (out to 200 nautical miles or the median line with other states).

Fishing in UK waters

There’ll be no change to the rights and responsibilities of UK-registered vessels fishing in UK waters. All vessel owners must continue continue to comply with the law and the conditions of their licence, including current reporting requirements (such as logbooks), the economic link criteria and discard policy.

Access to UK waters

Non-UK vessels, including EU or EEA registered vessels, will not be permitted to fish in UK waters, unless there is an access agreement and the vessels have the appropriate license.

The London Fisheries Convention, which gives access for specific countries to fish in the UK’s 6 to 12 nautical mile zone, will not apply to the UK.

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

EU and non-EU (third country) waters

There will be no automatic access for UK-registered vessels to fish in EU, EEA or third country waters. All forms of fishing gear must be removed before Brexit. Any fishing activity outside of UK waters will be considered Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU).

The right to transit through the waters of another coastal state will continue to apply allowing UK vessels to sail through (but not fish in) EU waters or those of other countries.

Norway and Faroe Islands

The UK government has signed continuity agreements with Norway (on 30 September) and with Faroe Islands (on 15 October) to allow UK fishermen to continue to access and catch fishing quotas in Norwegian and Faroese waters after Brexit. These agreements will remain in place until the end of 2019.

Quota allocations and fishing opportunities

The UK government will honour the current quota allocations and effort limits for the remainder of 2019. Quota for 2020 will be negotiated at the end of 2019. International swaps for quota and effort will stop when the UK leaves the EU. There will be no cross-year swaps.

Western Waters

The current Western Waters effort regime and days at sea effort baselines will continue to apply in UK waters after Brexit.

Licensing arrangements

The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) and devolved administrations will vary licences to restrict UK fishing vessels to fish in UK waters only. This will take effect from the day we leave the EU.

If an agreement on access is reached, UK vessels will need a licence to fish in other countries’ waters. This will be issued by the newly established Single Issuing Authority (SIA), set up by the UK Fisheries Authorities. The SIA will also license foreign vessels to fish in UK waters, if access is agreed.

Fishers in the over 12m fleet must ensure their vessel has an IMO (International Maritime Organisation) number to fish outside of UK waters.

Access to EU 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. UK vessels will only be permitted to land their catch in designated North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) ports in the EU.

To land in an EU designated port, vessels must:

Check with the NEAFC to find out how much notice is needed. This will vary depending on the country and if the fish is fresh or frozen.

EU and non-EU (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 NEAFC Convention Area and landing into the UK will need to complete a Port State Control 1 form.

Regional fisheries management organisations

The UK will join all relevant regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) as quickly as possible after Brexit.

The joining process may take up to 6 months so there may be a gap in the UK’s membership. During this time, UK vessels may not be able to fish in international waters covered by RFMOs.

North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) Convention Area

The UK will join the NEAFC after Brexit.

For UK-registered vessels to continue fishing in the convention area, and landing into the EU, you must hold a current UK domestic licence. You’ll need this before you can apply for an international licence from the relevant fisheries authority.

Contact your local fisheries authority office if you want further guidance on fishing internationally. You’ll also need to register with the NEAFC’s electronic Port State Control system and complete the Port State Control forms (PSC1 or PSC2) before landing.

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.

Preparing to move goods between Ireland and Northern Ireland

Goods moving between Ireland and Northern Ireland will face different procedures compared to other UK-EU trade in a no-deal Brexit.

Read the guidance on customs procedures and VAT for goods moving between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Preparing for changes to existing trade agreements

Read the guidance on changes to trading with non-EU countries that have a free trade agreement with the EU.

Preparing for changes to import tariffs

The UK will implement a temporary tariff regime in a no-deal Brexit. This will apply for up to 12 months while a full consultation, and review on a permanent approach, is undertaken. Under the temporary tariff regime the majority of UK imports will be tariff-free.

Check the temporary rates of customs duty on imports after Brexit.

Exporting fish and fishery products for human consumption to the EU

To export wild-caught marine fish or fishery products to the EU in a 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.

Read the guide on exporting and importing fish if there’s no Brexit deal.

Direct landings

Vessel owners or skippers landing fresh fish into EU ports will need to:

The discard ban will remain the same.

Fresh fish landings from vessels which are not approved food establishments will not need an Export Health Certificate.

Special requirements for UK approved fishing vessels

Local Authority approved freezer, reefer or factory vessels that land frozen or processed fish directly into the EU will require:

  • a Captain’s Certificate signed by the Captain who is authorised by APHA (Animal and Plant Health Agency) or DAERA (Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs)
  • the fish to be landed into a Border Inspection Post (BIP) approved for the landed fishery product

Food approved vessels include freezer, reefer and factory vessels. ‘Processing’ includes activities such as wrapping, mincing, freezing and filleting.

Non-food approved registered vessels that land fresh fish directly into the EU at a NEAFC designated port will not require an Export Health Certificate or to pass through a BIP. They will still be subject to any normal official controls within the port. ‘Fresh fish’ may have undergone primary production, which may include de-heading or gutting.

Importing EU-caught fish and fishery products to the UK

For EU imports, you’ll need a catch certificate for each:

  • consignment
  • direct landing of fish or fishery products

Your exporter will have to submit the certificate to the Port Health Authorities or relevant fisheries authority.

The certificate will need to be checked at least 3 working days before the estimated arrival time into the UK. This deadline may change case by case depending on the type of fishery or distance from grounds to port.

If the fish you’re importing has been stored, you’ll need a storage document.

If it’s been processed, you’ll need a processing statement from the exporter.

You’ll need an Export Health Certificates for imports of fish that originate outside of the EU. You will not need an Export Health Certificate for imports of fish or fish products from the EU after the UK leaves the EU.

Eels and eel products

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 in a no-deal Brexit. 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 how Brexit might affect labelling.

Your employees

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

Find out more in Employing EU, EEA and Swiss citizens and their family members after Brexit.

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 31 October 2019 to live, work and study in the UK if there’s no Brexit deal.

You can use the EU seasonal worker information for employers to give further details to your employees.

Published 1 March 2019
Last updated 21 October 2019 + show all updates