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Brexit Q&A: How will a ‘No Deal’ Brexit affect UK boats in the EU?

The topic on everyone's lips - Brexit. 3 years on from the pivotal vote and discussions are still underway, with Boris Johnson's government at the epi-centre of national and global news.


But as negotiations continue, do we really know how a ‘no deal’ Brexit would affect our community? We’ve delved into the web to uncover how boating in the EU will change under the new political landscape. 


If the government and the EU don’t agree a deal, what happens?


A ‘no deal Brexit’ means that the UK and the EU are unable to come to an agreement in relation to Britain’s exit from the Union. If this happens, it means that there will be no transitional period and we’ll have to immediately leave the single market and the customs union, alongside other institutions run by the EU. 


A ‘no deal’ doesn’t mean that the UK stops leaving, it simply means that there is no clear plan established as to what the leave means for the countries. If a deal is agreed, there would be a transitional period where the UK’s current terms with the EU would continue to allow for the UK to sign trade deals and implement legislation.


A ‘no deal’ option is still a possibility, despite it not being favoured by either party as it doesn’t aid the political relationship. 


What happens to my ICC when boating in the EU after a ‘no deal’ Brexit?


The ICC (International Certificate for Operators of Pleasure Craft) is a certification awarded to “provide evidence of competence when requested by officials in foreign countries” (RYA). This certificate is not an EU document as it is awarded by the United Nations Economic Commission Europe (UNECE) Inland Transport Committee Working Party on Inland Water Transport Resolution 40. 


In terms of ‘no deal’, evidence of competency for boating recreationally is usually a ruling that is created domestically as part of national legislation therefore Brexit shouldn’t currently affect regulations. However, if after the UK leaves, the EU introduce new regulations in regards to leisure boating, acceptance of the ICC may change in EU countries.


Will I be allowed to keep my boat in EU countries after a ‘no deal’ brexit?


If your boat has Union status (customs status of Union goods) and is situated in a EU port or internal/territorial EU waters at the time that the UK leave, it is thought that it should preserve it’s union status and still be allowed to move freely. 


It is understood that the boat will then retain this status while it remains in an EU location. After that, if it is then exported and returns to Union customs territory, relief from import duty would be allowed alongside a VAT payment exemption. This is only if the re-import follows conditions in accordance with the Union Customs Code and the VAT directive.


You can prove Union status using the means outlined in the Unions Customs Code Implementing regulations. When proving this status for recreational boats, an invoice or paper T2L (a shipping document that covers goods shipped across the EU) are the most suitable forms of proof. 


If the UK enters into a ‘No Deal’ Brexit , it’s suggested that boat owners whose vessels lay in EU territories should obtain a T2L from HMRC and ensure that they retain any evidence to prove that the boat was in EU waters at the time of Brexit. 


What happens if my boat with Union Status is in the UK at the time of the Brexit ‘no deal’?


The European Commission has indicated that if the UK is to action a ‘no deal’ Brexit, boats with Union status that are at that point in the UK or territorial waters will then lose their existing status and assume UK status. This means that the boat would no longer receive VAT or import duty relief when being imported to the EU at a later date. Any evidence that shows Union Status i.e. invoices or T2L’s will then be invalid in demonstrating this status.


What happens if I take my UK status boat to the EU after a ‘no deal’ Brexit?


You may be able to claim Temporary Admission for a UK registered boat. Boats without Union status that are registered outside of the EU to an owner who is established outside of the EU are eligible to 18 months Temporary Admission. Once this time period comes to an end, owners will be required to be imported or leave the EU. If you choose to leave, a further 18 months can be started almost immediately. If you choose to import, paying VAT and import duty, the boat gains Union status and is no longer restricted to the 18 month admission. 


If my boat is in the EU when a ‘no deal’ Brexit occurs, can I claim VAT and import duty relief to get it back to the UK?


Returned Goods Relief is a law that alleviates charges on re-imported goods that have been in free circulation of the European Union returning in the same state as at the original export. HMRC has suggested that plans will be made to replicate this ruling in domestic law in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit. 


This would allow UK residents to return with their possessions without having to pay customs duty or VAT as long as the item has not been altered since their departure and follow any outlined rules in the Notice 236 Returned Good Relief. This will cover pleasure crafts that aren’t moored in the UK upon exit day as long as the owner can provide evidence that they paid VAT on the initial purchase. 


Will I have to change my country of registration if I want to keep my boat in the EU after Brexit?


Privately owned boat registration is usually a matter of domestic legislation. This shouldn’t affect your EU movement as free movement is linked to Union status rather than registration. Therefore if an EU country is happy for your to keep your boat there pre-Brexit, there is no indication that this will change post-Brexit. 


There is no suggestion that a change of registration will have any benefit. However, if you do decide to re-register, you will be subject to that country’s legislations which can include having to provide evidence of competence such as completing a test in the country’s language so bear this in mind. 


Will I be able to spend my summer aboard my boat in the EU after a ‘no deal’ Brexit?


It is still unclear what the immigration situation will be in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit. It is thought that UK citizens who normally reside in the EU will be allowed to stay without penalty. However boat owners who are not EU residents, may not be allowed to spend as much time in the Schengen area as they have been previously. 


The Schengen Area is the area encompassing all of the EU states that have abolished all passport and border control in their mutual borders. These countries are: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.


If the UK leave the EU on a ‘no deal’ basis, then UK residents will only have the allowance of 90 days in any 180 day period similarly to any other third country national. It has been suggested that you would not need a visa for these short stay visits. 


The RYA have been campaigning, suggesting that a 90 day time frame is inadequate for those UK residents who moor their boats abroad and would wish to cruise in excess of 90 days. 


Read the RYA’s Brexit positions here.

Got a question about Brexit? Tweet us at @BAOBuk or send us a Facebook message and we’ll do our best to answer!

Abbie Rogers
Boats And Outboards Marketing Team
Published on 2019-10-21