EXCLUSIVE: EU fleet in UK waters is still 3 times size of UK fleet in EU waters

Facts4EU.Org’s summary of the uneven and stormy seas after Brexit deal sell-out

© Brexit Facts4EU.Org

Latest Government information shows just how ‘unlevel’ the waters are for British fishermen

On Friday (15 Jan 2021) important new figures on fisheries were published by the Government about permitted catches, and about the numbers and tonnage of UK boats allowed to fish in EU waters versus EU boats licensed to fish in UK waters.

In the absence of the BBC researching and reporting on this, Brexit Facts4EU.Org reviewed the latest information from the UK Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA), from the official UK Marine Management Organisation (MMO) which is the United Kingdom Single Issuing Authority (UKSIA).

We have analysed the data, and our summary for ordinary readers and MPs is below.

Brexit Facts4EU.Org Summary

Licences issued – tonnages of UK and EU boats licensed to fish in each other’s waters

NOTE: From 1 January, UK and EU vessels were not permitted to fish in each other’s waters without a licence. The information below relates to the 12-200 nautical miles of UK and EU waters. Eligibility for licences to fish in the 6-12 nautical miles of UK territorial waters have still not been agreed. Likewise, no agreement has yet been reached with Norway and the Faroe Islands, so UK vessels are not permitted to fish in their waters and vice versa.

  • Total tonnage of UK boats licensed to fish in EU waters: 140,779 tonnes
  • Total tonnage of EU boats licensed to fish in UK waters: 410,023 tonnes
  • The EU fleet’s licensed tonnage in UK waters is almost three times that of the UK fleet in EU waters

© Brexit Facts4EU.Org - click to enlarge

  • No. of UK boats licensed to fish in EU waters: 1,074
  • No. of EU boats licensed to fish in UK waters: 1,398 (30.2% more)
  • And the average EU fishing boat is well over twice the size of the average UK fishing boat

Catch limits only provisionally agreed until 31 March

The UK government, following consultation with the devolved administrations and the Marine Management Organisation, has set provisional catch limits in line with the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

These provisional catch limits apply until the end of March and there are then liable to be extensions until annual negotiations finally conclude.

Under the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement, the UK’s fishermen will see small year-on-year increases in their share of the total allowable catch, and these will take place over a period of five-and-a-half years from now.

These small improvements for UK fishermen will therefore not conclude until 10 years after the British people voted to leave the EU.


We have deliberately kept the above information as simple as possible. The whole area of fisheries, allowable catches, quotas by species, zonal attachment, etc, is very complex.

Whilst we have all the detailed information, we have homed in on the basics for everyday readers and MPs. The messages are simple:-

  1. The EU fleet in UK waters is three times the size of the permitted UK fleet in EU waters
  2. Over 30% more EU boats are allowed into UK waters than vice versa
  3. The average EU boat in UK waters is 2¼ times the size of a UK boat in EU waters

One of the iconic symbols of Brexit was the regaining of sovereignty over UK waters

The result? Not even close. Forget ‘level playing fields’, what about the uneven seas?

Brexit is not "done" and the challenges mount

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Contrary to most popular reports, Brexit is not “done”. Not yet, at any rate. Please help us to improve it to a version much closer to the one people voted for in 2016.

[ Sources: UK Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) | Official UK Marine Management Organisation (MMO) ] Politicians and journalists can contact us for details, as ever.

Brexit Facts4EU.Org, Sun 17 Jan 2021

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