Senior British officials are urging the Greek shipping community to have faith in the City of London after the UK leaves the European Union.
Britain’s maritime minister, John Hayes (via a recorded message), and the chairman of Maritime London, Lord Mountevans, along with British Ambassador in Greece Kate Smith, on Wednesday addressed an audience of some 100 Greek shipowners and representatives of enterprises in the sector.
They were speaking at the 4th Greek-British Shipping Forum that the British Embassy in Athens and Maritime London had organized at the residence of the British ambassador at Kolonaki, in the center of the Greek capital.
They all cited the close relationship between the two maritime countries and the contribution of London-based Greek shipowners to both the British and Greek economies, stressing the prospects for further growth in their financial relations.
Nevertheless, no clear answers were provided as to what Brexit will mean for the foreigners who work in shipping offices or the tax status of shipowners based in Britain. The latter question carries significant weight as it appears foreigners who have completed 15 years in the UK with “non-dom” status (paying a steady annual tax amount) will now be taxed as British citizens, even for their incomes earned in the rest of the world.
Both the British minister and Lord Mountevans implied that Brexit could be used as an opportunity to offer additional incentives for attracting enterprises to Britain while safeguarding customs and other agreements with the 27 EU members as much as possible.
They did stress, however, that there will be new or improved bilateral trade agreements with some countries that will not be affected by the tight restrictions of the EU. This concerns states such as India, the US, Canada and South American countries, and will increase maritime transport and activity at British ports.
A key parameter for whether shipping companies remain in the UK, leave or move there from other countries will be the deal to emerge from the negotiations with Brussels on the freedom of movement for onshore and offshore staff.