Survey finds 92 per cent of UK fishermen will vote to leave the EU

Survey finds 92 per cent of UK fishermen will vote to leave the EU

A new survey of fishermen across the UK has revealed that more than 90 per cent will vote in favour of Brexit on June 23.

The poll, conducted by researchers at the University of Aberdeen, points to an even greater level of Euroscepticism in the industry than previous evidence has shown with the vast majority of skippers believing they will be able to catch and land more fish if Britain is no longer part of the EU.

However, the survey showed few were concerned about the potential impact a ‘Leave’ vote would have on sales of British fish beyond UK shores.

Dr Craig McAngus, a lecturer in politics who led the study, said that while the team had expected the industry to be above average for those wanting an exit from the EU, a figure of 92% voting ‘leave’ demonstrates the true depth of feeling.

“Fishing is an industry that will be one of the most directly affected by the decision when Britain goes to the polls,” he said.

“We know from anecdotal evidence that fishermen are likely to be Eurosceptic but the fact that over 90% of Fishermen intend to vote to leave the EU is surprising and shows how strong feelings are amongst skippers and boat owners.

“Fishermen view the EU very negatively and this further marks them out from the general UK public who are far more split over positive and negative feelings towards the EU.

“It is no surprise to find that fishermen believe their industry will prosper if there is a Brexit, and that they will be free to catch and land more fish than they are currently able to under the Common Fisheries Policy.  However, the fact that fishermen appear very relaxed about the potential impact on trade of fish to the EU after a Brexit is slightly surprising given then there is a lot of uncertainty around what Britain’s relationship will be to the EU and the single market should it vote to leave.”

The findings of the Aberdeen researchers come from an online survey sent to fishermen, skippers and boat owners across the UK in order to ascertain how they intend to vote in the referendum, their attitudes to the EU, their social attitudes, how they vote and demographic information.

The key findings are that:

  • 92% of UK fishermen will vote to leave the EU
  • Whilst the UK public are fairly evenly divided between those considered Eurosceptic and those who are not, Fishermen are practically united in their Euroscepticism
  • Fishermen believe that leaving the EU would benefit the UK fishing industry in terms of the amount of fish they would be able to catch and land and in more general terms
  • Fishermen do not believe that leaving the EU would have a detrimental impact on the trade of fish to countries that would remain in the EU

Dr McAngus added: “With current polls showing that there is a fairly even split between both ‘remain’ and ‘leave’ voters, there is no  such  split  amongst  fishermen.  

“In addition to their  voting  intention,  fishermen  differ  from  the  UK  public in  their  general  attitudes  towards  the  EU with fishermen holding an almost entirely negative view of being part of the EU.

“Clearly, fishermen are likely to have a strong opinion on such matters given that the European

Commission is responsible for the Common Fisheries Policy. More than three-quarters of fishermen think that leaving the EU would allow them to catch and land more fish.

“However, it is too simple to equate leaving the EU and not being subject to the CFP with an automatic and straightforward benefit to the UK fishing industry.  Britain’s exit from the EU means  that  its  future  access  to  and  membership  of  the  European  Single Market  is  unclear.  This would quite possibly have a significant impact on the sale of fish to other EU countries, with France, Spain  and Ireland  buying  over  140,000  tonnes  of  UK  fish  in  2014/15  and  accounting for 36% of the total tonnage exported to the UK’s top 20 export markets.

“Despite  this,  fishermen  are  relaxed  about  the  impact  that  leaving  the  EU  would  have  on the trade of  fish. Around 75% believe  that  leaving  the  EU  would  have  no detrimental  effect  on  the  trade  of  fish.    Indeed, more believe it  would  improve  trade  than would  hinder  it.  

“The  reasons  for  this  confidence  is  unknown,  but  one  likely  explanation  is that  UK  fishermen  are  confident  that  the  sheer  amount  of  fish  sales  made  to  countries  like France  and  Spain  would  continue  unabated  after  the  UK  left  the  EU  as  it  would  be  in  the interest of all parties involved.”

The full results of the survey can be found at