Brexit could generate £540 million and 5,000 jobs for the Scottish fishing industry, according to a detailed analysis published by the SNP government that concluded the UK’s extra catch would dwarf the impact of trade barriers.
A report commissioned by agency Marine Scotland found that the UK leaving the EU’s hated Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and gaining the entire quota from its waters would increase the seafood sector’s economic output by up to 21 per cent.
Although tariffs and other trade barriers from leaving the single market would have a negative impact, these would be far outweighed by the impact of reallocating catch in British waters from foreign to Scottish vessels.
Of the four scenarios modelled in the report, the only one showing Brexit would have a negative impact assumed that EU fishermen would retain their current quota in the UK’s 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Fergus Ewing, the SNP’s Rural Affairs Minister, yesterday insisted the report showed leaving the single market and customs union could cause “significant harm” to the industry.
But the 101-page document, co-written by a leading marine consultancy and published on the Scottish Government’s website, appeared to undermine the Nationalists’ anti-Brexit warnings.
The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) said the document showed the fishing industry would benefit from a “Brexit bonanza” if the UK takes back control over its waters and becomes an “independent coastal state.”
The Tories accused the Nationalists of “actively willing the UK to fail” despite their own report demonstrating there were “huge opportunities” for the industry even with trade barriers.
Around 60 per cent of fish caught in British waters are landed by trawlers from the rest of Europe. In March the UK Government was accused of betraying fishermen in the Brexit transition deal, which will see the EU continue negotiating fishing rights in the UK waters for 2019 and 2020.
However, Theresa May sought to reassure the industry the UK will decide which trawlers can access its waters after the proposed Brexit transition period ends in December 2020.
Bertie Armstrong, the SFF’s chief executive, said: “This report simply underlines the importance of the UK regaining sovereignty over its own waters and becoming an independent coastal state with the powers to control access and fishing opportunity.
“Any other course of action would be harmful to the fishing industry and, given its importance to coastal communities, that would be totally unacceptable.”
The report analysed the impact of four potential Brexit trade deals for 10 fish and shellfish species -cod, crab, haddock, hake, herring, mackerel, Nephrops, saithe, salmon and scallop.
Under the first and most beneficial scenario, Britain would gain control over all quota in its fishing waters and all trade tariffs with other countries would be removed.
It estimated this would lead a direct increase in economic output of around £320 million, the majority of which would come from the seafood processing industry, with indirect impacts adding a further £170 million and “induced” impacts another £50 million.
The biggest winners would be the mackerel (£218 million) and herring (£162 million) industries. It estimated this rise would lead to 1,810 extra jobs on trawlers and an astonishing 63 per cent rise, or 3,150 jobs, in fish processing.
The second scenario also assumed Britain regained control over its waters, but tariffs would be introduced on EU trade similar to those that currently apply to Norway. It estimated this would lead to a 10.6 per cent increase in fishing industry output and a 13.6 per cent rise in exports.
The third scenario was the same as the second, but imposed higher World Trade Organisation tariffs on trade between the UK and EU, along with a larger increase in other trading barriers.
However, even with these higher trading costs, the analysis estimated the industry’s output would rise by 10.1 per cent and exports by 11.9 per cent.
The final scenario assumed tariffs applied between the UK and all other countries and EU trawlers had the same access to British waters as present.
This would lead to a fall in output of £85 million (2.3 per cent), the report estimated, and the equivalent of 429 full-time jobs. Of these, 44 per cent would be in the processing sector and 43 per cent on trawlers.
Fergus Ewing, the Scottish Rural Affairs Minister Credit: Scottish Government
Mr Ewing said: “This report confirms that reduced access to EU markets could significantly harm Scotland’s seafood industries, with those parts of our sector reliant on the speedy supply of fresh product to European markets particularly at risk.”
He said it also suggests “there is unlikely to be an immediate gain for the fishing industry with any quota increases for the fleet only likely to be achieved through international agreement following negotiation over time with coastal state partners.”
But David Duguid, the Tory MP for Banff and Buchan, said: “It is no surprise that the SNP are choosing to focus on the worst possible outcomes. They have no interest in seeing Brexit succeed. In fact, they appear to be actively willing the UK to fail.”