This week Jonty Pearce considers how Brexit will affect boaters


So, the die is cast and the country has voted to leave the EU. After months of media hype and disinformation I had naively hoped that after the event we would enter a period of calm whichever way the vote went while our leaders put their plans into place. Not so, I’m afraid – the press seems to be even more full of ‘experts’ putting their oar in. It’s a bit like listening to a thousand weather forecasters presenting simultaneous predictions and making the mistake that they actually know what the weather is going be like in a week’s time.

There is no doubt that leaving Europe will have far-reaching consequences that will affect us all. For us yotties it may solve some problems and create others. While Brexit may resolve the ongoing EU grumbles surrounding red diesel use – it seems that Belgium is again picking on UK boats with the wrong colour fuel in their tanks – the issues of VAT payment on boats and border controls may raise their ugly heads. Mercifully, we have the RYA who have already widely considered the implications and challenges facing us after a leave vote. The first thing to realise is that no changes are going to happen overnight. Article 50 of the EU regulations lays down that the UK will continue to be subject to EU regulations for two years while the legal and financial disentanglement is unraveled. Those planning their booze cruise next week will be untroubled by extra red tape – all you have to do is listen to and believe the forecasts…

Much of the regulation currently experienced by boaters emanates from the EU. This legislation covers red diesel, control of borders for both humans and invasive non-native species, pet passports, biocides (especially antifouling), and Marine Protected Areas; exit from the EU will have an unclear and unpredictable impact on all of these as well as other in other areas. For many of us the most salient question is whether visiting Europe by yacht would involve stringent customs checks and border administration. Could it be more expensive? Greece is planning to implement its ‘Yacht Tax’ – a monthly visiting charge depending on boat length which could top £1000 for boats longer then 13m. Exchange rates may vary, customs fees may apply, and mobile phone/data tariffs might change. Confirmation of sailing competence such as the ICC or RYA qualifications might become more specific, and insurance cover may alter.

Much of maritime law is still in the preserve of national governments, facilitated by United Nations conventions and agreements, and is therefore unlikely to be affected. Similarly, Marine Conservation Zones, Trinity House fees, and offshore renewable energy installations are not within the EU remit so will not change.

We will have to wait to see who leads the UK into the EU exit negotiation and how the new relationship develops. If Europe tries to bully us the cooperation that would be so beneficial to both the UK and the EU will be damaged, and any concessions would have to be hard fought for. Let us all pray for common sense and a sense of calm collaboration to smooth the waters of the English Channel.

Jonty Pearce