EU Fishing Rights in UK Waters

Possible EU fishery rights in UK waters and possible UK fishery rights in EU waters post-Brexit.

An Opinion prepared for the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation by Robin Churchill, Emeritus Professor of International Law, University of Dundee.

November 2016


Overall Conclusion

Under the law as it currently stands, EU vessels will no longer have any rights to fish in UK waters once the UK has left the EU. Nor will the EU be able to claim access for its vessels to the UK’s EEZ under Article 70 of UNCLOS as the EU is not geographically disadvantaged.

If the EU could show that it will suffer economic dislocation when its vessels that have habitually fished in the UK’s EEZ are no longer able to do so following the UK’s departure from the EU, the UK will have to consider (but no more than that) whether to give the EU access to that part of the allowable catch surplus to the UK’s harvesting capacity (if any).

The situation just outlined will apply, mutatis mutandis, to fishing by UK vessels in the EEZs of other EU Member States. Of course, it is always possible that on leaving the EU, the British Government would decide to permit EU vessels to fish in its EEZ for policy reasons, such as being in
exchange for the access of British vessels to the waters of other EU Member States or as part of a regime for the management of stocks that the UK and the EU will share. But that is quite different from the current legal position, where EU vessels will have no access rights post Brexit.

Full report:

Opinion prepared for the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation