What does Brexit mean for seafood

Seafish's approach to Brexit is simple, pragmatic and non-partisan: we shall work with industry and all relevant stakeholders to understand the new landscape, the implications/opportunities/threats for seafood and options for industry and Seafish response.

Our initial step is to provide a high level overview of the Brexit landscape and potential impacts for the UK seafood industry. As things become clearer, our subsequent work will identify the major industry impacts arising from key Brexit developments, setting out potential areas of response.

The complexity of our industry, reliant on domestic and international seafood, means the implications differ for operators depending on their sector, markets and such like. In seafood, the interfaces between the UK and EU are numerous and overlapping and include:

  • Marine resource e.g. share EU governance including the Common Fisheries Policies (CFP) and various environmental directives.
  • Seafood markets and trade e.g. importance of the single market to seafood exporters, and a common external tariff for seafood importers.
  • Seafood regulation and standards e.g. mutual recognition and harmonisation of product standards, consumer information, and market protection.
  • Seafood operations (labour) e.g. the free movement of workers providing a labour supply.
  • Public funds e.g. EU funds that support policy priorities, and support constraints (state aid).

Brexit developments expected to impact on the industry are highly uncertain, with much depending on where the UK (and EU) goes from here. A number of scenarios could play out. At this early stage, we consider changes relating to two scenarios: a shallow Brexit (a UK outside the EU with a low appetite for autonomy); and a deep Brexit (a UK outside the EU with a high appetite for autonomy).

We can already see some of the contours of how the Brexit landscape is likely to affect seafood:

  • UK business climate: Under either scenario, the UK business climate in the next two years is reportedly expected to worsen.
  • Policies governing fisheries and fish production: Under either scenario, given international obligations, there would be a requirement for some kind of arrangement to support fisheries management, access, data collection and marine conservation.
  • Trade tariffs: In a shallow Brexit there may be tariff free access to the EU for some products, but in return, a number of trade restrictions would apply. In a deep Brexit scenario, trading at world prices, UK seafood operators would face challenging price competition from low cost nations.
  • Regulation and non-tariff barriers: In a shallow Brexit the UK could reduce non-tariff barriers by continuing to adhere to EU regulations and adopting EU product standards across the whole economy. In a deep Brexit, EU rules and standards would apply only to those businesses exporting to the single market.
  • Access to labour: In a shallow Brexit free movement of and residence of EU nationals could be maintained but in a more restricted form. In a deep Brexit the movement and residence of EU nationals would be subject to UK controlled immigration.
  • Public funds: In a shallow Brexit, UK public subsidy might align with those in the rest of the single market to ensure a level playing field is maintained. In a deep Brexit, under conditions of free trade, and in the global market, public subsidies could be minimal with state aid at UK Government discretion.