The RYA is in constant dialogue with HMRC in order to obtain definitive answers to the many questions that are of concern to our 112,000 members. In particular, we have been working closely with the UK Government to address specific boater concerns on how their boats will be treated when returning to the UK from EU waters in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

HMRC has now responded to a specific question regarding the treatment of boats returning to the UK from EU27 waters.

The RYA previously received information from the European Commission which indicated that in the event of a no deal Brexit, boats lying in the EU27 at the time of Brexit would retain Union status and boats lying in the UK at the time of a no deal Brexit would lose Union status and have the status of UK goods.

The Commission indicated that there would have been no export and therefore a boat lying in the UK at the time of a no deal Brexit would not be entitled to relief from VAT and import duty at the time of reimport to the EU and therefore VAT and, if applicable, import duty would be payable unless the boat qualifies for temporary admission. As UK legislation is based on the Union Customs Code and the EU Vat Directive, we expressed our concern about the future status of boats lying in the EU27 if we have a no deal Brexit.

As such, we asked HMRC on behalf of RYA members, if boat owners would be able to bring them back to the UK without VAT and import duty (if applicable) becoming payable.

Government response

HM Government’s response is that it is still working towards a deal with the EU, but that plans have been made to replicate Returned Goods Relief (RGR) into domestic law in the event of a no deal. 

RGR allows those resident in the UK to return with their belongings (including pleasure boats) to the UK without paying customs duty or VAT as long as the items have not been changed since their departure and follow the guidance given in the Notice 236 Returned Good Relief.

The UK Government has undertaken that RGR will be available in respect of UK pleasure craft not moored in the UK on EU exit day. They may return to the UK after the exit and be subject to Returned Goods Relief as long as the person responsible has evidence that the VAT was paid on the purchase of the boat in either the UK or the EU. The types of proof needed are shown in Notice 8. VAT accounted for in the UK would need to be shown in respect of vessels purchased after the date of the EU exit.

Next steps

HMRC has committed to meeting with the RYA to work through the many questions that we have, in order to provide definitive and validated advice to our members. Our Brexit Q&A considers a number of boating-related scenarios in the event that no deal is agreed, based on the RYA’s knowledge of the legislation as it currently stands.

For more information about the RYA’s Brexit work or for guidance on how to contact your local MP, visit or contact the Cruising, Legal and Government Affairs team at