UK RYA: What will Brexit mean for Boating?

With Article 50 finally triggered, some nine months after the historic Brexit vote, the RYA ask what happens now?

Published 7 years ago, updated 6 years ago

Royal Assent was given to the Brexit Bill on 16 March 2017, with Prime Minister Theresa May triggering Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon on 29 March, which gives any EU member the right to quit the EU unilaterally.

What is Article 50?

Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty sets out how an EU member can voluntarily leave the European Union. It specifies that a leaver should notify the European Council of its intention, negotiate a deal on its withdrawal and establish legal grounds for a future relationship with the EU.

Now Article 50 has been set in motion, the UK has two years to negotiate its exit and it cannot be stopped except by unanimous consent of all member states. Any negotiated exit deal must be approved by a “qualified majority” of EU member states and can be vetoed by the European Parliament. The government’s focus is now clearly set on the country’s EU exit.

It is expected that the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, will distribute his draft response to the EU27 leaders within 48 hours of receiving the formal notification. However, it may take up to six weeks for them to reach consensus before the more formal process can be started.

Brexit Secretary, David Davis, has said that “The government is clear in its aims: a deal that works for every nation and region of the UK and indeed for all of Europe – a new, positive partnership between the UK and our friends and allies in the European Union.” How that translates, in reality, is still unclear and is likely to remain so until formal EU-UK negotiations are underway and substantial progress is made.

What will Brexit mean for boating?

The RYA is particularly concerned about the prospect of border controls and restrictions on duration of stay both for individuals and vessels wishing to visit Europe, the future ability of recreational craft and their contents to travel freely throughout Europe and the ability of RYA qualification-holders to work in EU territory.

Clearly, 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 will remain unclear until the exit negotiations are underway.

It is important to remember, however, that we work on a wide range of issues affecting boating that do not currently have an EU dimension. For example, the requirement for private recreational skippers to hold qualifications when they visit other countries is generally specified in national legislation and is nothing to do with the EU. Domestic UK issues such as national marine protected areas (including MCZs), offshore renewable energy installations, carriage and disposal of flares, lifejackets, light dues, and alcohol limits, are unlikely to be affected by our exit from the EU.

What is the RYA’s role?

The RYA has an important role to play in lobbying the UK Government and European institutions to reduce the regulatory interference with boating.  We will continue to engage with officials and politicians in an effort to minimise any impact on recreational boaters and to identify opportunities for improvement. 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, as information becomes available, we will keep members updated and advise them on how their boating activities may be affected. We will also continue to ensure that legislators, regulators and other authorities understand, and take account of, recreational boating activity.



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