Although Brexit continues to cause serious problems for British pleasure cruisers sailing in the EU, the French government has taken steps to ease the headache a little by announcing that it will scrap the official “port of entry” requirement for UK-flagged vessels.
Since January 1 this year, British skippers have been allowed to take their boats into an EU country only via one of a small number of maritime border posts. These are generally busy commercial ports out of which ferry services operate.
The Cruising Association took up the issue with the French authorities, and negotiations involving two of their honorary local representatives in France led directly to a change in the rules.
British skippers will still need to clear in to France upon arrival, but will be able to do so using a form that can be downloaded from the internet (in English) and submitted by email to the French Police Nationale at the appropriate official port of entry. After that, they may formally enter France by any port. The same process can be used for UK vessels clearing out of France.
It should be noted that UK sailors entering France must still comply with new, post-Brexit rules relating to their length of stay in the Schengen zone, limits on goods that may be transported (including, for example, tobacco and alcohol products), and flying the yellow “Q” flag. The Cruising Association understands that a form should be submitted for each person on board entering the Schengen area, and that entry/exit forms may be presented as evidence of arrival/departure in lieu of a passport stamp.
A spokesperson for the CA welcomed the move by France, saying: “This is a significant improvement and removes a major hurdle for boats visiting France; something CA members and other boat owners will value”.
While the new rules will provide some relief to British skippers who enjoy trips across the English Channel, UK pleasure cruisers still face many other issues as a direct result of Brexit. These include, for example, VAT rules for those wishing to sail their boats from an EU country to the UK, restrictions on how long a UK-flagged vessel may remain on EU territory, and limits on how long British citizens may stay in a Schengen country.
The Cruising Association has for some time been lobbying for a better deal for British sailors. For example, the organisation is running a campaign for the introduction of 180-day cruising visas. Such a move would bring equality between the EU and the UK – for while the UK government agreed a Brexit deal that allowed Brits to spend just 90 days out of any 180 in Schengen countries, it also agreed that EU citizens could spend 180 days straight in Britain.