Brexit’s impact on Plymouth: fishing, science and people

Where to start? There are literally so many areas of business and life that will be adversely affected. Here is a snapshot of a few, together with my thoughts: –


Deliberately focused on by the government on an emotional level whilst they are well aware that, in economic reality, fisheries account for 0.12 per cent of UK GDP. That’s £1.20 for every £1000 of trade. In Plymouth, fishing and fish processing etc. accounts for approximately 2000 jobs. Not insignificant, but total jobs in the Plymouth travel-to-work area (TTW) are 126,000, so why has the government ignored the financial sector and manufacturing, which together account for approximately 20 per cent of GDP (Gross Domestic Product), yet will be impacted massively? Perhaps not letting the facts ruin a good story, a deception that permeates much of the entire Brexit campaign.

From January 2021, all relevant councils in Devon (and of course UK-wide) will have to issue ‘Catch Certificates’ for all fish exported to the EU. This will require: a ‘prior notification of landing’ form; a ‘pre-landing’ document; and a ‘catch certificate’. And any foodstuffs including products with even miniscule proportions of animal ingredients will also require an export health certificate.

But don’t worry, we only export 70 per cent of our fish to Europe…

Brexit risk assessment by Plymouth City Council (PCC)

The many risks reviewed include contract price increases from contractors, should any raw material increase in price (unless a set contract with relevant clauses is agreed beforehand), together with the risk of loss of experienced workers from key trades, as some – or many – EU workers decide to leave the UK. On a macro scale, all costs will effectively be passed on to the consumer: in the case of PCC, through increased rates and other charges, and for direct investment (e.g. buying a new house), by increased purchase price. A national study has shown that some foodstuffs and ingredients may increase by up to 20 per cent from January 2021. This will impact us all, but especially the poorest in our communities, already hit in many cases by reduced hours of work due to the economic impact of Covid-19.

General issues

Thanks to a Home Office decision (perhaps direct from the Princess of Darkness herself, Priti Patel), Advice Plymouth’s funding bid to provide advice to vulnerable EU citizens was rejected, leaving the International Organisation for Migration as the only official provider of advice to this group in the whole of the southwest. [As it is, in November, Citizens Advice reckoned that only 60 per cent of Plymouth’s 11,000 EU citizens had applied for settled status. Those needing help can also contact the charity Settled. Ed]

The loss of EU citizens who have decided to leave the UK could also have an economic impact on sectors which historically have relied on them: academia, advanced engineering, manufacturing, construction, health and social care, as well as agriculture and tourism.

There will be a significant impact on funding for key research establishments: in Plymouth alone, the Marine Laboratory risks losing 21.7 per cent of its direct funding from ‘Horizon Europe’ (HE), plus an additional 8 per cent linked to the Copernicus Earth observation programme. The University of Plymouth has also received 16 per cent of its funding over the last 3 years from HE and this, too, is at risk if the UK ends up without a deal.


A succession of reports (disseminated by the CBI) into the economic impact of Brexit showed that the very best-case-scenario EU deal will cost the economy 6 per cent of GDP over 10 years. At 2019 figures, total GDP was approximately £2.2 trillion. That means a ‘hit’ of around £132bn. When that is added to the £40bn ‘divorce bill’ (not, as Brexiteers claim, a parting gift, but agreed compensation for forward funding that the government had agreed and signed off), plus the HUGE costs of Brexit preparation – including car parks, etc. initially dismissed as part of ‘project fear’ – plus the approximate £7bn cost to UK businesses (source CBI) of complying with new regulations in 2020 alone, including (in at least some cases) setting up bases in Europe to get around restrictions, we start to see what a truly incredible piece of self-harm the Brexit fantasy has become.

In my view, failing to ask for an extension to the transition period and going ahead in January despite the huge economic impact of Covid-19, rather than, say, delaying until June 2021, is not just irresponsible, but bordering on criminal negligence on the part of Johnson and his government. The only “oven-ready” deal that I can see involves cooking the goose that laid the golden egg: the EU. The indigestion may prove fatal, not just economically but also to our international reputation.

Written in a personal capacity and not for copying in part or whole without the owner’s consent