Are you a tank half-full or a tank half-empty kind of boater?.....

Are you a tank half-full or a tank half-empty kind of boater? Your reaction to the latest news on red diesel should help you decide. For those of you who missed it, and believe me it was well hidden, the Chancellor announced in December’s pre-budget report that Her Majesty’s government “is minded to apply for an extension of the derogation for fuel used in private pleasure craft”. In simple terms this means that, bar a sudden and embarrassing change of heart, Tony Blair will be asking Europe to renew the ruling allowing British boat owners to fill up with lower-taxed red diesel.

However you look at it, this has got be good news and yet the cynics aren’t convinced. They reckon it’s simply a way of appearing to placate boat owners by letting Brussels do the dirty work a few months down the line. While it is true that the any extension to the derogation will need to be approved by Europe, I don’t believe this is a deliberate attempt to pass the buck.

Think about it for a minute. Even appearing to support the boat owner’s cause is a brave move for a Government so obsessed with spin. To the tabloids, letting ‘toffs’ fill up their ‘gas-guzzling superyachts’ with low tax diesel while everyone else pays full whack to top up the family motor, doesn’t look too clever. In fact without a thorough understanding of the facts behind the headlines, this latest decision looks about as welcome as a sea urchin in a life raft.

Thankfully, the minister in charge seems to have ignored the potential for negative PR and accepted that such a catastrophic hike in the price of marine fuel could seriously damage Britain’s successful but fragile marine industry. Granted, we’re not home and dry just yet. Convincing the EU to agree to an extension will not be easy. One MP I spoke to suggested that in Brussels it all comes down to horse trading; we’ll let you have cheap marine diesel, if you let us have subsidised sauerkraut. Given that Mr Blair is offering to give up several billion pounds worth of Britain’s special rebate, surely a few litres of red diesel isn’t too much to ask in return?
In the meantime I’m going to enjoy the London Boat Show even more
than usual on the basis that my tank remains half full.