Blog: ‘Perfect storm’ Punitive EU red tape is penalising thousands, warns expert – Express

Spain: British expats face threat of return to UK warns expert

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But Robin Baron has warned appeals to the Government to push for a workable solution have so far fallen on deaf ears. Mr Baron is chairman of the Regulations and Technical Services group of The Association (CA), which represents the interests of its 6,300 and motor boat cruising members.

All have been badly impacted by restrictions which came into force at the start of the year which restrict UK citizens to a maximum of 90 days in any 180 period within the bloc’s Schengen visa-free travel area, to which all of the EU27 except Ireland are signatories, together with a number of non-member states.

For sailors the rules have had significant implications.

The time restrictions mean a full cruising season of up to six months is no longer possible, Mr Baron said.

Additionally, changes to UK VAT rules have adversely boat owners whose vessels were not previously kept in the UK and which were located in an EU27 country on December 31, and who are unable to bring their boats back to the UK without incurring significant UK VAT charges.

Mr Baron said: “The rules on UK VAT are wholly within the control of the UK government yet they seem intent on penalising cruising sailors who, if the situation continues unchanged, are unlikely to bring their boats back to the UK if this means paying VAT again.

Ursula von der Leyen

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Union (Image: GETTY)

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson took the UK out of the EU on December 31 (Image: GETTY)

“A recent survey carried out among CA members who keep their boats on the rivers and canals of Schengen countries has revealed that 80 percent are likely to take them back to the UK or sell and give up cruising altogether, thanks to visa and VAT issues arising out of Brexit.

Mr Baron added: “In terms of red tape there are now requirements to check people and boats in and out of the UK and in and out of Schengen/the EU.

“These procedures are still being developed and so there is uncertainty about them.

“Certainly cruising sailors must face up to dealing with increased bureaucracy.”

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Oliver Dowden

Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, is unwilling to intercede (Image: GETTY)

The effect of the 90/180 day rule and the VAT changes when combined with COVID-19 restrictions create a perfect storm for the cruising sailor

Robin Baron

He warned: “The effect of the 90/180 day rule and the VAT changes when combined with COVID-19 restrictions create a perfect storm for the cruising sailor.”

Mr Baron suggested the EU was being “overzealous” in its application of the rules.

He explained: “They are punitive. It was open to the UK government to press the EU for the right to visit Schengen for up to 180 days but they chose not to do so.

“The UK gives EU nationals the right to visit for 180 days. The EU allows countries in Schengen to grant longer stay visas and France and Sweden already do this.

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Waiting for the London Bridge, Antwerp

Waiting for the London Bridge, Antwerp (Image: James Littlewood/CA EIWS)

Marseilles-les-Aubigny

Marseilles-les-Aubigny (Image: Gordon Knight/CA EIWS)

“The Cruising Association is campaigning for individual countries to give UK citizens longer say visas.

“Initially we are concentrating on the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and Greece.”

Nor were sailors the only group impacted by the rule changes, Mr Baron stressed.

He said: “Second home owners and motor caravanners will also be affected.

Spain tourists

Spain’s top tourist destinations (Image: Express)

“If the UK requested reciprocation on 180 days we would urge Brussels to accept this on the basis of reciprocation. There is no indication they would not.

“Our patron, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, has written to The Rt Hon Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State, Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, asking for the Government to negotiate 180 days on behalf of cruising sailors alongside musicians.

“In his response he declined to do so.”

British ex-pats across the continent have been feeling the pinch after rule changes which came into force after Brexit.

British expats in Spain

British expats in Spain (Image: GETTY)

More than one million UK nationals live in EU and EFTA countries, with the figure for Spain standing at 381,448, according to figures published by Spain’s Permanent Immigration Observatory at the end of last year.

Anyone who failed to apply for residency or had it rejected were required to leave by March 31 or be deemed an illegal immigrant.

Additionally, in Spain expats earning less than £21,000 a year may also be liable for deportation.

The rule has implications for thousands of British pensioners whose sole source of income is the UK’s state pension of just over £6,500 a year.

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