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On Thursday 23rd June 2016, the UK voted to leave the European Union in a referendum that gripped the attention of the world. Amongst the frantic reactions, shock, and discussions since the result was announced, is the uncertainty around whether British yacht crew will be able to continue their employment under their current arrangements within Europe.
The general answer to the many questions the referendum has raised around British crew working abroad, is that nothing is immediately going to change. In fact, the exit negotiations could take several years to conclude, should the other EU member states agree to extend the default two-year period. The only precedent in this scenario is Greenland who exited the then–EEC (European Economic Community) in 1985. Some thirty years on, the UK’s EU exit process is going to be very different.
We now have the Lisbon Treaty, and in particular, Article 50 of said treaty, with formal acknowledgement that any member state may notify the EU of their intention to leave, and begin the two-year withdrawal process (that may be extended upon universal agreement from remaining EU member states) wherein exit negotiations must conclude. As such, it’s difficult to predict with real confidence any long-term outcome of a member state’s exit – it’s never been done before.
That said, it is unlikely that British crew on yachts in Europe would see any changes to their usual work arrangements, as vessels are governed by flag state. It is also said that The Seafarers’ Earnings Deduction – that allows British seafarers to claim tax relief on earnings once they’ve worked outside of the UK for at least one year – won’t change as a result of the EU vote, as it is written into British law.
A lot of the answers that yacht crew ultimately want, simply aren’t known yet, and will depend on the kind of deal the EU ends up offering the UK. A couple of preliminary options that analysts say could go ahead, would be around the UK remaining a part of the EEA (European Economic Area), continuing to contribute at least some amount to the EU budget for the privilege, and continuing to allow free movement of people – the UK simply wouldn’t be bound by EU laws.
The UK could also choose to completely opt-out, instead trading with the EU under the rules of the World Trade Organisation, such as the United States do.
Ultimately, the UK’s exit from the European Union should not have an immediate or long-term negative effect on yacht crew. It remains the case however, that we just don’t know for sure yet.
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