Brexit and the Yachtsman

Queries obviously are raised as to what effect the potential departure from the EU may have upon the average English yachtsman.  In the most part, the principal impact of the EU has been to harmonise standards (Recreational Craft Directives and the Icomia Standards being a classic example of the benefits of an EU/International body addressing such issues).

Another area where perhaps there may be other significant alteration is that of VAT.  Whilst Britain has a relatively small high volume manufacturing base compared to other EU countries (and notably Germany, France and Italy) the English market for larger craft is a significant one, and anything that may serve to jeopardise that market is something that may have very grave affect upon the European Manufacturers.

Against that background, any marginal changes in VAT rates will have a disproportionate effect upon sales, and were Brexit to result in Britain adopting either markedly lower VAT Rate or, in the alternative, Europeans to adopt higher VAT rates as part of the resolution of problems with the Euro, then that would have a very significant impact upon sales, or at the very least would cause the increasing use of VAT avoidable schemes across the EU as part of an established means of counter acting such outcome.

Internally, VAT avoidance arrangements have been rather tolerated within the EU, but the English Customs & Excise have always taken a rather hawkish line in relation to the more obvious devises that have been adopted (including some of the more extreme leasing schemes).  Once likely consequence therefore of England’s department from the EU will be to increase the focus upon the VAT arrangements and VAT paid status of craft brought into the country (both new and used) and it is therefore likely that this will be one of the major arears in which Brexit will have an early consequence.

In addition, whilst the EU has (to its credit) so far neither sought nor failed to introduce compulsory standards and qualifications across the EU, freed from England’s long term objections to this and ships papers, the EU is likely to introduce compulsory standards and unified ships papers arrangements which, insofar as the British will not be part of any arrangement, is in turn likely to return us to the bad old days of the 70s when these were a regular problem for UK Vessels going to France and elsewhere.

The true extent of the problems (if any) are difficult to quantify but clearly if Brexit occurs, things will not continue as they are


Tim is a Director and Head of the Marine department specialising in marine and admiralty law.

He specialises in all aspects of the law relating to pleasure vessels and is recognised as one of the foremost experts in the field, addressing a vast range of issues from contractual to technical, via the statutory and occasionally bizarre.

Practising internationally, Tim represents owners, insurers, boatyards and high profile marine organisations, as well as those buying or selling their boats. 

After working for brief periods as a boat builder, yacht chandler and professional sailor, he went on to study Admiralty Law at the University of Wales in Cardiff where he obtained his law degree. He is a member of the Royal Yachting Association and the British Marine Federation.

  • Technical construction disputes
  • Contractual disputes
  • Marine conveyancing
  • Title disputes
  • Salvage and towage
  • Recreational Craft Directive / Maritime and Coastguard Agency compliance
  • Marine related personal injury and fatalities

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