The UK and EU negotiating teams have now reached a joint-position on the shape of the UK's transition / implementation period, to take place before the long-term, 'end state' relationship comes into effect.
Lasting from the expiry of the Article 50 period on 29 March 2019 until 31 December 2020, this interim arrangement will see the UK's current terms of EU membership continue, though without formal UK representation in the EU institutions and agreement that the UK will be able to sign (though not implement) trade deals with non-EU countries. Agreement to these terms was granted by EU heads of government at last week's European Council meeting.
This is good news for boaters and those in the marine industry who feared a 'cliff-edge' ending to current arrangements next spring.
As Cruising News readers will remember from our December newsletter, the RYA has been in discussions with government and Parliamentarians to emphasise the importance of maintaining Union goods status for craft placed on the market before exit day after Brexit.
We have also been seeking reassurances around the form of the new border control regime for both craft and RYA qualification holders who work on a seasonal basis in other member states.
However, despite recent progress, the question of how these issues will be addressed beyond the transition period remains unresolved, and has been the key focus of the RYA's public affairs activity on Brexit so far in 2018.
Whilst the Prime Minister set out in her recent Mansion House speech more detail on the UK's desired end-state relationship with the EU, including options for possible customs arrangements outside of the Customs Union, we still await UK-EU agreement on the status of goods placed on the market before exit day, despite position papers from both sides issued last year indicating broad agreement on this issue.
The pushing back of the publication date for the Government's White Paper on post-Brexit immigration policy, now expected in the autumn, also leaves significant uncertainty in this policy area.
With the EU Withdrawal Bill - which transfers all existing EU law into UK law at the point of the UK's departure from the EU - currently being debated in the House of Lords, the RYA has worked tirelessly to table and move an amendment to the Bill, seeking greater clarity from the Government on its intentions in the areas outlined above.
This amendment, which was debated on 19 March, asked the Government to publish a report before exit day outlining the steps it was planning to take to address the customs and border control issues facing the recreational boating sector.
Responding to the debate, the Government Minister, Lord Duncan, recognised the substantial financial and employment contribution which the recreational boating and marine sectors make to the British economy, adding: "the wider boating question is one which the UK Government take very seriously indeed and we will not lose sight of it as the negotiations unfold."
Following last week's European Council meeting, the next step in the Brexit process is the commencement of UK-EU negotiations on the shape of the 'end state' relationship, with significant gaps still to be bridged based on the Prime Minister's Mansion House speech and the negotiating guidelines formally issued by EU leaders last week to their lead negotiator, Michel Barnier.
Meanwhile, the detail of both the transition period and the withdrawal agreement reached between the UK and EU last December are due to be incorporated into a Withdrawal Agreement and Implementation Bill, which will be considered by MPs in the autumn. A 'heads of terms' agreement on the end-state relationship between the UK and EU is also due to be published around this time, ahead of more detailed negotiations set to take place after March 2019.
As the Government has recognised, the recreational boating sector already makes a significant contribution to the economic and social wellbeing of communities up and down the country. In the coming months, the RYA will continue its work to ensure that the final Brexit deal reflects the needs and priorities of the recreational boating community.
We are also keen to involve our members in this process, so keep an eye out in future newsletters for additional information on how you can get more involved in our work on this issue.
In the meantime, should you have any questions about RYA's Brexit activity, please contact the Cruising, Legal and Government Affairs team at email@example.com.