Post-Brexit Boating Explained

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The UK’s departure from the EU means changes to the way boats cruise and sail in EU waters. From the EU’s perspective, the UK now has third country status without the rights to free movement that EU citizens have.

As a result, recreational boats in EU waters will be treated no differently from boats arriving anywhere else in the world. If you are taking a vessel in or out of the UK’s 12-mile limit, you must fill out Form C1331. The new regulations do not include movements between Northern Ireland and the EU, or movements between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

When Arriving in the UK

If you are sailing into the UK from outside, you must fly the ‘Q’ flag, so it can be seen as soon as you have entered UK waters (from the 12-mile limit). Keep the flag flying until you have finished reporting to custom authorities. You could be liable to pay a fine if you fail to comply. You do not need to fly the flag if you sail from the EU to Northern Ireland.

When arriving direct, you must phone the National Yachtline and inform them if:

  • UK VAT has not been paid on the vessel.
  • You have any restricted or prohibited goods.
  • You have onboard goods to be treated as surplus stores.
  • There is any notifiable illness on board.
  • There is any passenger who needs immigration clearance.
  • Any repairs or modifications that have been carried out on the vessel since last leaving the UK.
  • You have any goods that need to be declared and pay UK tax or duty.

You will be asked to complete form C1331, and you must not land goods or people until a customs official says you can do so.

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Customs and VAT

Non-EU vessels may be imported by a non-EU national for up to 18 months before they become liable to pay VAT. While boating after Brexit, your transit log must be stamped when leaving a country and a new one obtained at every new country’s port of entry. When your 18 months is up, you must leave the EU or pay VAT.

Your VAT clock is restarted on leaving the EU, and a new 18-month period of temporary importation starts upon re-entry. Your 18-month clock can be stopped if your boat is put out of commission and lodging papers with the customs office.

UK HMRC states that a UK-flagged boat that has left the UK must return before 30th June 2022 if you wish to claim Returned Goods Relief and retain the vessel’s UK VAT paid status. This was originally the 31st December 2021 until they agreed to an additional six month grace period.

However, if you wish to bring a tax-paid EU-purchased boat back to the UK, you will be liable for a second VAT payment even if it has remained in the EU or returns before the cut-off.

HMRC recommends that any boat owners in the UK always carry evidence of their VAT status onboard in case of customs official checks. It is advised that you put together documentation of VAT paid and proof of where your boat was at the end of the transition period (30th December 2020), such as maintenance invoices or a confirmatory letter from a marina.

yacht bow in Mediterranean sea in the middle of the sunny summer day

It’s safe to say that boating in a new post-Brexit world will undoubtedly face some challenges. In fact, a study answered by Cruising Association persons suggests that the majority of them are considering selling their crafts and packing in cruising altogether due to the new rules which see UK citizens only able to travel to Schengen countries for 90 days every 180, impeding their ability to spend a whole season on Europe’s coast.

For those who plan to weather the storm, at Offshore Supply, we have everything you need to keep your vessel in tip-top condition thanks to our offshore chemicals, marine gases and cleaning products. Whether you need water testing kits, marine chemicals to treat or clean water, fuel, equipment or Unitor welding products, we have everything you need to keep on sailing safely and efficiently.

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We are leading experts in providing marine supplies for boats, yachts and the entire offshore industry. You can order your products online through our website, and we will deliver our high-quality marine engine and cleaning supplies to all UK ports and just about any location in the world. Wherever you are based, we will be able to reach you. Contact us today for more information.