The RYA, together with British Marine and the Cruising Association met today with representatives from HM Revenue and Customs and HM Treasury to discuss the difficulties for private pleasure craft in Northern Ireland resulting from the decision to withdraw the use of red diesel. Recreational boaters and the marine industry urgently need clarity surrounding the Government’s plans for implementation and how it intends to address the practical difficulties before June.

The discussions took place against the background of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland and in particular Article 8 concerning Union VAT and excise law that applies to Northern Ireland. To achieve consistency with the2018 judgment by the Court of Justice of the European Union and to ensure that the UK meets its international obligations under the Protocol, private pleasure craft users in Northern Ireland will no longer be able to use red diesel for propelling their craft.

It is proposed that this change will take effect by June this year. The RYA has stressed the difficulties presented by this short timescale and requested a longer period to address the white diesel supply issues that the decision presents. Once implemented, private pleasure craft users in Northern Ireland will have to use white diesel for propulsion instead of red diesel.

Private pleasure craft users in Northern Ireland with only one fuel tank on board for propulsion and non-propulsion will not have to pay a higher rate of duty on their non-propulsion use of diesel than they would otherwise have to pay. The Government are intending to introduce a new relief scheme in Northern Ireland which will become effective from the date that users become obliged to use white diesel.

The RYA is concerned that the volume of sales of diesel to private pleasure craft is not great enough for suppliers to justify the expense of providing a second pump at the waterside, which is going to cause significant supply problems. 

HMRC have confirmed that once the change does take effect, it would be illegal to buy red diesel for private pleasure craft propulsion in Northern Ireland, but fuel already present in tanks could be used without penalty. Private pleasure craft from Northern Ireland that fill up in Great Britain (GB) in future could do so under the Istanbul Convention which will allow red diesel legitimately purchased in GB to be taken back to Northern Ireland in the main fuel tanks of a boat. 

The RYA recommends that recreational boaters with marked 'red' diesel purchased in GB:

  • Keep receipts for diesel purchased in GB, to prove that it was bought in the GB, and request that your retailer marks them "duty paid."
  • Log the date of refuelling and engine hours to reinforce these records; and
  • Do not carry marked diesel anywhere other than in their craft's main fuel storage tanks.

Howard Pridding, RYA Director of External Affairs, commented: “The meeting with Government was productive and both sides now have a clear idea of the issues ahead. We will continue to work with our colleagues in RYA Northern Ireland to talk to Government about the practical difficulties that these issues present and work constructively with HM Treasury and HMRC officials to develop guidance that will inform boaters about the new fuel situation in Northern Ireland.”

You can read more about the RYA's lobbying developments with red diesel here.

You can learn more about the results of the red diesel consultation on GOV.UK.

If you have any questions regarding red diesel or any other current affair issues, please visit the Current Affairs page on the RYA website or email: cruising@rya.org.uk.