The Brexit deal only allows UK sailors to cruise the EU for 90 days in every 180-day period. Pilot book author Gordon Knight is now campaigning for visa reciprocation

The Brexit deal means UK cruisers can only visit the EU for 90 days in every 180-day period.

Known as the Schengen Agreement, it covers visits to Germany, Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Overstaying can incur severe fines.

Now pilot book author and sailor Gordon Knight has launched a campaign to grant British citizens the right to stay for up to six months in France, Belgium and the Netherlands.

This is the same amount of time granted to EU citizens visiting the UK, under the Brexit deal.

Knight, who spends up to six months every year on the European inland waterways, is warning that unless British sailors, boaters and other long-stay tourists are given a fair deal to visit once COVID-19 restrictions end, EU countries could risk losing this tourist revenue.

Gordon Knight is campaigning for rreciprocal 6 month visa free for UK cruisers which was not part of the Brexit deal

Gordon Knight wants all UK tourists to have 6 months visa free travel in the EU. Credit: Gordon Knight

He said the argument to allow 6 month reciprocal visa free travel ‘stacks up, especially as many EU countries are desperate to rebuild their tourism industry’ post pandemic.

EU countries are both individually and collectively responsible for the immigration status of all non-EU citizens.

Knight originally planned to lobby the UK Government on the immigration rules in the Brexit deal.

But ‘the UK was refusing to discuss with the EU anything that smacked of freedom of movement’.

He said he feels ‘let down’ by the UK Government’s position, and that their decision to remove freedom of movement from the negotiating table was clear following the introduction of the 2020 Immigration Act, which granted six months visa free travel to all European countries.

Instead, he has launched multi-lingual petitions in France, Belgium and the Netherlands to try to persuade their governments to reciprocate the six months visa-free travel that the UK now offers to their citizens.

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‘Our own government completely failed to negotiate on behalf of British long-term visitors to the EU, while unilaterally giving their citizens 180 days visa-free. That’s why it’s necessary to carry the message directly to individual EU countries,’ stressed Knight, who hopes his campaign will ‘start a debate about long term visas for tourism’.

‘However, this is a move which is in their own interests and would give any of these countries a considerable advantage in rebuilding the numbers of British boaters and other tourists post-pandemic.

‘It’s about showing Brits that they remain tourist-friendly post-Brexit and offering a fair Brexit deal from their governments for all British long-stay visitors,’ he added.

Knight said he feared there would ‘be an exodus’ of UK sailors and boaters leaving the EU because of the 90-day rule, and that the dream of cruising around the Mediterranean was now ‘not possible’.

‘People will start asking if cruising for 90 days is really worth it? And is paying marina dues for 9 months of the year while your boat sits there and gathers dust really worth it? There will be an exodus of people with boats being moved to outside of the EU and cruising between EU and non-EU countries,’ he added.

Details of Gordon Knight’s petitions can be found here:

French petition:

The Netherlands petition:

Belgium petition:

The Cruising Association has also launched its own campaign, backed by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, calling for 180-day cruising visas, separate from the Schengen 90-day visa, for sailors visiting the Netherlands, Greece, Spain and Portugal.

It is also examining if the application process for long-term tourist visas in France and Sweden could be simplified for UK cruisers wishing to stay longer.

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