(This complete editorial can be found at: www.yachtingmatters.com Edition 31)
As we have always said, yacht Owners vote with their feet and that has been borne out over the past months like never before as politics and terrorism go head to head with yachting. In the recent past, as I am sure you remember, we had the Regional Tax on yachts visiting Sardinia, yacht Owners kept away, the tax was rescinded and they returned. Similar exoduses have taken place in Croatia, mainland Italy, France and Spain, over the years, taxes were either introduced, causing an exodus until the tax had been accepted or sidestepped, or long awaited yacht friendly chartering rules have been introduced as in Spain, giving a needed economic boost to local economies. Of course when this happens there are winners and losers, after all the vessels have to go somewhere. This year the exodus from Turkey, after years of expansion, has been extreme, due in part to internal politics, terrorism and the downing of a Russian fighter jet that flew into Turkish airspace that resulted in Russian owned yachts leaving en-masse. Recently we had the failed Turkish coup, with well over 200 people killed and Just a day before that we had the truck killings in Nice, another appalling and unforgivable crime that can only add to the misery and fear being created by French extremists throughout France over the past year. Last year’s summer season was not a good one along the French coast, I cannot see this year being better, but of course these atrocities can take place anywhere, the kind of terrorism we are facing has no borders.
Which countries are benefitting this season, they have to be Italy, Spain, Croatia and Montenegro. Eastern Greece has suffered due to its correlation with Turkey but there are still many yachts cruising Greek waters in safety.
In the United Kingdom we have had the Brexit vote and the resultant upheaval in UK politics as the country comes to terms with its new destiny. I have sat through this most unexpected of results and watched as the United Kingdom sets itself on a course that will no doubt determine a new and exciting future for its people, unhindered by the bureaucracy of Brussels. The British are very good at confronting new challenges and I have no doubt that in years to come other countries within the European Union could well look on in envy. I have watched in amazement as European leaders, far too late, have rounded on the people of Britain, as they try to justify their own failed existence, telling us how we have made the biggest mistake ever. What surprises me is that we are divorcing ourselves from what appears to be a disintegrating institution, one that has created an unworkable system that has left large banks throughout Europe, especially those in Italy and also Germany teetering on the edge. There are also countries within the EU with appalling unemployment and no hope for many of their young citizens wanting to get a decent start in life and the EU has possibly the lowest growth of any developed economic zone in the world, why would we not want to leave, what we signed up for in 1973, when there were nine members, is not what we have now. I sat after the vote watching a Polish politician stating that the people of the UK have no right to vote on such matters, they are far too important to be left to the man in the street, what has happened to democracy?
How will this affect yachting, many yacht crew are, traditionally, from the UK, they will no doubt have new employment rules to contend with, making life difficult, but then the Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans and many more non EU crew have been coping with this inconvenience for years. The UK, with its devalued Pound, will make the few very good refit and build yards that do exist in the UK very good value for money and this devaluation has already given many UK crew, those being paid in Euros or dollars, an instant pay rise and of course anybody going on a cruise of the UK will be saving money. Yachts heading to Northern Europe or new builds leaving the German and Dutch yards can also call in for duty free fuel as they pass by the English coast. The full effects on the flagging of vessels with the Red Ensign are still unknown, but this 300 year old seafaring emblem of quality will not be disappearing soon, of that I am sure.
Maybe Brexit is not all bad!