Sailing in Europe After Brexit

Since the Brexit transition period ended on 31st December 2020, sailing rules for UK boat owners who cruise long term in Europe have changed.

If you have a boat that you keep in Europe, you may have some questions about how your non-EU citizen status will affect your sailing after Brexit.

Immigration and Visas

As UK citizens, we technically no longer have the right to free movement in the EU, but thanks to the Schengen Area, you would not require a visa to travel as long as your stay does not exceed the 90-day Schengen rule. Depending on which part of Europe you are cruising in, you may experience different rules regarding immigration which allow you to operate beyond the Schengen rules with a long stay visa. It is imperative to check your destination’s immigration policy prior to travelling to avoid incurring a fine. You can find out more about individual countries’ immigration policies for boaters here.

Tax and Customs

If your cruiser is based in an EU country, you may be subject to tax and customs charges that did not exist pre-Brexit. The RYA estimates that up to 33,000 British people who go boating in Europe could be impacted by customs and VAT issues if they have bought and moored a boat in the EU. One impact of leaving the European Union is that UK-owned boats will lose their VAT-paid status once the vessel has been out of the UK for three years. Upon return to the UK after this period, the yacht will be liable for a second VAT payment based on the current valuation of your boat, despite lobbying from the RYA to abolish this ruling. The Cruising Association estimates there are approximately 20,000 UK-registered yachts around Europe which will be affected.

In a recent statement, the RYA said:

“Many of the regulatory challenges currently faced by British recreational boaters have an EU dimension – such as red diesel, border controls, invasive non-native species, biocides, and European marine protected areas. The British exit from the EU might have an impact on all of these issues, but the nature and extent of that impact remain unclear following the referendum.

Whatever the UK’s future relationship with Europe, we will work hard to ensure that recreational boating is as unfettered as possible. During the forthcoming negotiations and transition period, we will keep members updated and advise them on how their boating activities may be affected.”

For more information about taxes and duties when sailing your pleasure craft to and from the UK, visit the gov.uk website.

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