There has been much wailing, gnashing of teeth and other Old Testament histrionics following our news story last month...

There has been much wailing, gnashing of teeth and other Old Testament histrionics following our news story last month about the possible loss of red diesel. And that’s just aboard Fidget (below), whose tank capacity of 70-odd gallons (300 or so litres) is hardly going to be in the second mortgage class.

I’m afraid I have no better news this month. The story wasn’t a mistimed April Fool, unlike (please, it must have been) the ‘make your own compass out of a ballcock and bucket’ feature in one of the sailing mags last month. However, it would be premature to give up in despair and buy a Winnebago. Overseas readers will be wondering what all the fuss is about, as they’re already quite used to paying the full tax whack on marine diesel. This is the nub of the matter. One country’s full whack isn’t necessarily the same as another’s.

Brussels is determined to ‘harmonise’ secondary taxation throughout the EU, and red diesel for pleasure craft is an anomaly like no other – only the UK, Finland, Belgium and Ireland grant their citizens similar privileges. And on the principle of ‘let the polluter pay’ we are singularly lacking in the legs-to-stand-on department. Brussels’ bloody-mindedness in this case is, paradoxically, a reason to be optimistic: if we’re going to pay the tax, let’s pay the French rate, say, or the Spanish. Fifty pence a litre would be a lot easier to swallow than 80p or a pound.

The other glimmer of hope is that this sort of thing needs to be agreed by all member states, and even if our own government is prepared to use red diesel as a bargaining chip it doesn’t follow that the Finns will, or the Belgians, or the Irish.

So don’t be too glum just yet. In any case, that sailing magazine is full of thoughtful tips to help you save up for your next tank