From the Editor: May 2006

So Gordon Brown will go cap in hand to Europe

So Gordon Brown will go cap in hand to Europe and humbly ask Brussels to let us keep our red diesel (see the full story on p11). Good on him! What worries me is that the people charged with putting our case to Europe, namely HM Revenue and Customs, don’t appear to be doing a very good job of it.

The EU Commission has already stated that unless the UK can show that the renewal is “in the interest of reducing distortion of competition and promoting the better operation of a single market”, we might as well pack up our bags and go home.
So how come the document being sent to the Commission contains thousands of words discussing domestic issues like the plight of Scottish boat owners trying to find fuel in a post-derogation era, which unfortunately Brussels couldn’t give two figs about, and absolutely nothing about the massive distortion in European prices that would occur in the absence of a derogation?

Consider the facts. A litre of rebated red diesel currently costs upwards of 50p per litre in many British marinas while in France or Spain a litre of non-rebated diesel costs around ?1 or 70p per litre – a price differential of 20p per litre in our favour.
If we lose the derogation and are forced to use non-rebated road diesel, the price will suddenly shoot up beyond the £1.10p per litre which many British marinas are currently charging for petrol – a price differential of at least 40p per litre in the continent’s favour.

Now unless I’m missing something, that is a considerably bigger market distortion than is currently the case. Yet nowhere in this exhaustively researched document is this even mentioned. Could it be that Her Majesty’s government isn’t too keen on highlighting just how much they are taxing British consumers of road diesel compared to our European neighbours?

On another note I hope you like our new Boatmaster section starting on p90. With two new series dedicated to boat handling and practical seamanship as well as revamped product tests, it should arm you with all the skills, knowledge and gear to make the most of your time on the water. You might as well enjoy it while you can still afford to!

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