Brexit negotiations with the EU are now underway amidst much speculation on how the proceedings may be affected by the results of the general election.

The Government has set out its priorities in the Queen's Speech which contained 27 bills that are to be enacted over the next two years. There are eight separate bills to deal with the UK's exit from the EU. Of these, the Customs Bill makes clear that the Government intends to create a separate domestic customs and tax regime, albeit based on existing EU law. The Immigration Bill will end free movement for EU nationals, but exactly what the new restrictions will be have yet to be worked out.

RYA Director of External Affairs, Jeanette Hopkins, takes a look the Queen's Speech and in particular how recreational boating might be affected by the "Brexit plan".

"We are continuing our work with our member committees, other marine bodies and the Government to understand the impact of these issues on recreational boating and to develop a position which can form part of the UK's negotiations," explains Jeanette.  

"With the Great Repeal Bill set to place around 19,000 pieces of EU regulation into UK law, we are also assessing what opportunities there may be for our 109,000 members and the wider recreational boating community.

Key issues

"In particular, we are concerned about what the Brexit related bills may mean for border controls, time limits 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 without customs restrictions, and the ability of RYA qualification-holders to work in EU territory.

"In addition, many of the challenges currently faced by British recreational boaters have an EU dimension - such as red diesel, invasive non-native species, biocides, and European marine protected areas. Our exit from the EU might have an impact on all of these issues, but the nature and extent of that impact remains unclear."


Behind the scenes

"We will continue to ensure that Government understands and takes account of the activities of our members as it negotiates the UK's exit position.

"It's been made clear that no progress will be made on the UK's new trading relationship with the EU until significant progress (yet to be defined) is made on the country's exit. This means agreeing positions on the future of EU nationals in the UK and vice versa, and the size of the UK's exit payment.

"National security and public safety, together with economic pressures, are more significant in today's political agenda than ever before. For these reasons, it is vital that our members' interests are represented effectively to ensure that Government is aware of the potential impacts on our activities when balancing competing interests."

Border controls

Jeanette continues: "The RYA is representing boating interests as negotiations get underway on the shape of future border controls for recreational boats entering or leaving the UK. In the past we've worked with the UK Government to ensure that plans for greater control of the UK sea border are proportionate and take account of recreational boating activity.

"As the Government clarifies its intentions for the UK border, we will work to minimise any adverse impact or unintended consequences for recreational boaters and to identify opportunities for improvement.

"The RYA has in the past argued that, to be effective, any sea border security programme must be simple and embrace rather than alienate the recreational boating community.

"We are maintaining our regular dialogue with the Home Office and Border Force to ensure that our position on border controls is understood.

"Ultimately we will be striving for a system that is simple to understand and to comply with irrespective of whether recreational boaters are entering or leaving UK territorial waters, should the Government choose to enhance controls at the UK sea border," concludes Jeanette.

Union Goods status

The RYA also has an important role to play in ensuring that the Government understands the impact that loss of Union Goods status would have on those who wish to visit or base their boats on EU waters.

The ability for recreational boats together with their equipment to navigate free of customs procedures and time limits throughout the waters of the European Union is currently dependent on them having Union Goods status.

As the Government clarifies its future relationship with the EU VAT and Customs area, the RYA will endeavour to clarify the future status of recreational boats and to minimise any adverse impacts or unintended consequences once the UK leaves the EU.

Use of RYA Qualifications

The RYA aspires to maintain the acceptability of RYA instructor qualifications for use in RYA Recognised Training Centres located in EU member states.

Richard Falk, RYA Director of Training and Qualifications, says: "We have developed the quality, reputation and scope of RYA training schemes such that RYA-qualified instructors have access to what is the most extensive recreational boat training network within the European Union.

"We believe that holders of RYA instructor qualifications wishing to instruct at RYA Recognised Training Centres located in EU member states should continue to be able to do so with minimal additional regulatory, financial or administrative burdens.

"To achieve this, we are developing stronger links with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Department for Exiting the European Union, as well as other relevant departments and agencies, to ensure that this position is taken into account by policy-makers.

"On a related topic, we also wish to minimise any unfavourable impact on, or unintended consequences for, the eligibility of UK citizens holding RYA qualifications to work in EU member states in occupations relevant to those occupations," adds Richard.

The RYA believes that UK citizens holding RYA qualifications who wish to work in EU member states or visit on business (e.g. seasonal staff and permanent occupations) should be able to obtain the necessary permissions to do so with as little administrative burden and cost as possible.


Help us help you

In support of our work representing recreational boaters during the Brexit process, the RYA needs data on how and where UK boat owners use their boat.

If you own a boat, please complete our short questionnaire at to give us details of where you keep and use your boat.

Completing the survey is quick and easy and should take most people less than 3 minutes.  Your participation will enable us to deliver robust data and an accurate picture of recreational boating, both here and abroad, as part of our negotiation work with Government.

As the representative voice of boating, we will seek to influence all legislation that may impact on any aspect of recreational boating or navigational safety.  We will of course resist any proposed legislation that we believe to be disproportionate, ineffective or unenforceable.

If you have any questions or topics to raise, you can contact the RYA Cruising, Legal and Government Affairs team at