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The “take back control of UK waters” Bill

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This Bill will provide the legal framework for the United Kingdom to operate as an independent coastal state after the UK has left the European Union and the Common Fisheries Policy (the CFP).

The main aspects of the Bill are:

  • Controlling access to UK fishing waters
  • Allowing the UK to set its own fishing quotas
  • Protecting the marine environment, by ensuring fisheries management decisions are taken strategically for the benefit of the whole marine environment
  • To give the UK the power to negotiate with the EU and other coastal states over fishing rights.


Since 1973 all UK fishing has been governed by the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The CFP allowed shared access for EU fishing boats to EU member states’ waters, and set fishing quotas for the total allowable catch which were agreed annually by member states. When Britain leaves the EU it will also leave the CFP, so there needs to be a new set of fishing laws.

This Bill delivers on the Government’s commitment to sustainable fishing and marine conservation as set out in its 25-Year Environment Plan as well as being a key piece of Brexit legislation.

The Environment Secretary Michael Gove said:

This new Fisheries Bill will allow us to create a sustainable, profitable fishing industry for all of the UK. It will regenerate coastal communities, take back control of our waters and, through better conservation measures, allow our precious marine environment to thrive. The Common Fisheries Policy has damaged the UK’s fishing industry and our precious fish stocks. The Bill will deliver a sustainable fishing industry, with healthy seas and a fair deal for UK fishermen.


This is a Government Bill introduced by the Environment secretary Michael Gove.

Other Arguments

There has not yet been a deal agreed for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, and nobody yet knows what any economic agreements with the EU will look like so this Bill does not contain any detail about market access to fisheries products.

There has been some criticism from environmental groups about the Bill’s lack of commitment to sustainability. Ruth Westcott, Sustainable Fish Coordinator at Sustain said:

The Bill is incredibly disappointing. Michael Gove has ducked away from the difficult questions, and put off long-overdue debates about a fairer and more sustainable allocation of quota and setting targets to make all UK fisheries verifiable sustainable so they can achieve the best markets for their products. On discards, the Bill states an objective to ‘Gradually eliminate discards’ - which is far weaker and slower than the EU commitment to end discarding completely, which has a clear and unambiguous deadline. This is a backward step, despite us all having been promised no weakening of British environmental standards after Brexit.

How to get involved

You can contact your MP, or environmental pressure groups such as Sustain.

If I don’t act, will it go through?

This is a Government Bill so it is likely to go through.