If you are a regular British rider going on continental scooter trips, things got a little more complicated from Jan 1st 2021 as Brexit kicked in. And that’s without the added difficulties of Covid…
Sticky takes a look at some of the changes and gives some tips to help Brits going abroad and for our European cousins coming over here.
[JAN 4th UPDATE: Obviously with a freshly-announced lockdown most of us aren’t going anywhere abroad soon, but when that gets eased we expect fun-loving scooterists to be like corks out of a champagne bottle. There’s no harm in preparing…]
The good news is that either an old red or a new blue British passport will still allow you to cross into Europe.
The bad news is that you can no longer use it right up until the expiry date because most countries will now expect you to have more than 6-months remaining validity on the passport before you are allowed in.
We’d advise that you check how long is left on your passport now, but certainly, check before you plan to travel again.
Avoid the ‘fast lane’
Another thing you are likely to find post-Brexit is that British citizens may not be allowed to use the EU passport lanes and may well be subject to longer queues and stricter checks in the ‘rest of the World’ lanes. If this change indeed comes to pass, then this is more likely to be a problem at airports rather than land crossings. Again, it is a situation that may well be resolved in the future.
Another pain in the butt is the removal of automatic minimum insurance cover to ride in EU countries on your UK insurance. Instead, you are required to obtain a ‘green card’ from your insurance broker prior to travel. A Green Card is a document that confirms the level of insurance cover held when travelling abroad:
- Many current UK insurance policies for bikes and cars include free Green Card for a specified period per trip – or per year (often 60 or 90 days) in EU countries.
- Usually, a Green Card extends your UK level of insurance cover to the country you plan to drive in. So if you hold Fully Comprehensive insurance, then the Green Card will give you Fully Comp in the countries covered and so on.
- Some insurance companies still charge for Green Cards or may charge an additional fee for Green Cards that extend beyond any included period.
- When it comes to renewal time, if you plan to drive or ride abroad make sure you choose an insurance policy that gives you any Green Card cover that you are likely to need.
Get it early: Most insurance companies recommend applying for a Green Card at least 10 days prior to travel. Check that the level of cover and period offered is sufficient for your needs.
When asked about Green Cards, Andy Goodson – the man from Lexham Insurance said “This should be fairly straightforward, it is our intention with the insurer where we place over 90% of our policies to issue them free of charge and just to email them out. Interestingly there is no longer a requirement for them to be on green paper. Although if people insist on them being posted on green paper then we may have to review costs.”
So last century
The whole Green Card procedure is very 20th Century, with insurers initially expecting to print and post out bits of green paper – which obviously incurs processing, printing and postage costs. As such, this procedure is very likely to be revised by most insurance providers in the first half of 2021.
Already some insurers (see above) are able to issue Green Cards digitally via PDF so that customers can print them out. Thankfully, there does not seem to be a requirement for them to be printed on green-coloured paper or card, but for the moment at least it is stated that you must carry a physically printed document rather than simply having the PDF available on your phone.
International Driving Permit
Another often quoted result of Brexit was that from 2021 British drivers would be expected by certain sources to need an International Driving Permit (IDP) as a supplement to their Driving Licence while driving in Europe.
It now appears not to be the case, and according to this Government website (as of January 1st 2021) people should still be able to drive on their current/valid UK/EU driving licence.
This is good news because the International Driving Permit (IDP) is another relic of the last century: a little grey book with a photo in it issued by the post office, which explains in numerous languages which entitlements the driver has.
Replacing the validity of a hard-to-forge Driving Licence covered in holograms, issued by the DVLA, with a piece of grey cardboard issued by the Post Office seems nonsensical.
IDPs are still required for driving in certain countries, and different countries require various versions of the IDP so check here before travel.
Getting an IDP isn’t difficult. You take your current driving licence to the Post Office along with a couple of passport photos and the IDP is made while you wait, however:
- Not every Post Office is set up to issue IDPs
- You need to pay £5.50
Driving licence expiry date
TOP TIP: It is vital to check the remaining validity period of your driving licence as you may face a fine in the UK or abroad for using an expired one. Photocard driving licences currently only last 10 years, so they do need regular renewal.
TOP TIP: It is now easier to apply online to renew a driving licence. You may not even need to supply an image as the DVLA can use the photo from your current passport.
As a result of the last-minute deal, we avoided another nightmare scenario: the removal of reciprocal health cover for travellers under the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) scheme.
These free-to-obtain cards were a lifeline for travellers, entitling the holder to the same level of emergency health cover as a citizen of the EU country they are in. So for European Union citizens in the UK it meant free cover in an emergency.
It was expected that the EHIC scheme would end abruptly at the start of 2021 for British citizens, but this is NOT THE CASE. What has been agreed is that any current EHIC card held remains in force until the end of its validity period. As such you should check the remaining duration of any cards held before travel.
From now on the UK Government will no longer issue EHIC cards but they are expected to introduce a replacement Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) in the future after striking reciprocal cover deals with various countries around the world (e.g. Australia).
The main difference between the EHIC and the GHIC is that it is unlikely to offer any cover for existing medical conditions. See travel insurance below…
Even with the EHIC card you only have minimal health cover; for example, it doesn’t provide any cover for repatriation after an accident.
TOP TIP: It is highly recommended that anyone planning to ride outside the UK obtains Travel Insurance prior to departure. There are many levels of cover available but the VITAL one for riders of motorcycles and scooters is to ensure that riding is covered and not treated as a dangerous sport.
Most policies EXCLUDE motorcycling and many exclude specific capacities of machine.
From our previous research, we’ve found that the majority of UK Travel Insurance policies SPECIFICALLY EXCLUDE riding bikes or scooters. You must therefore check the small print before taking out a policy if you want it to cover riding.
TOP TIP: The same warning applies if you have a pre-existing health condition. If you need to have cover then you need to specify that at the start of the policy and may have to pay an additional fee if the insurance company judge that you are a higher risk.
TOP TIP: Travel Insurance policies that do cover motorcycle riding have previously been available from The Post Office and also the Co-op. We’ve checked the small print for you and The Post Office now only covers riding up to 125cc (see image on the left). The standard Co-op policy is the same (image above) but you can upgrade (at an additional cost) to ride higher capacity machines for up to 15 days per trip.
Always check the small print as these terms may be subject to change.
Coverwise – a policy that will cover you
One company that does offer motorcycle cover as part of its standard travel insurance policy is Coverwise. The smallprint of their policy shows that it covers riding over 125cc, with an excess of £100. Give them a try for annual or single trip cover.
As before Brexit, UK drivers are still expected to carry their vehicle documents with them while travelling abroad. These include:
- V5 vehicle ‘logbook’
- Insurance Certificate & Green Card
- MoT Certificate (if applicable)
- Driving Licence
In practice, prior to Brexit, foreign police forces were able to hook into the DVLA records to obtain live information about whether a UK-registered vehicle was taxed and insured, and also who the registered keeper was.
As yet, it is not clear if this data connection remains live after Brexit but with the joint security agreements, it is very likely to.
TOP TIP: While most foreign police forces will want to see an original of your documents it is not a bad idea to make several colour copies of them so that you can let them keep one if required. It is also wise to keep one copy with your vehicle and another with your luggage in the event that one or other gets stolen.
GB/EEC sticker/number plate
It is also a requirement – as it has always been – that your vehicle displays a GB sticker at the rear. Also, if your number plate currently has the EEC symbol on it you’ll need to replace it with a GB plate to keep it legal.
Typically, where life gets more complicated for British tourists, so in turn it will be made more difficult for visitors to our isles. For 2021 the Lambretta Club of Scotland are hoping to host Eurolambretta (Covid rules permitting) so visitors from Europe will also be required to obtain a Green Card for their insurance.
Presumably, their European driving licences and EHIC cards will be reciprocally recognised, but that has not been confirmed yet.
It is likely that people riding or driving British-plated vehicles will get more unwanted attention from the police forces and at borders in the EU.
What Brexit means to many mainland Europeans is an uncomfortable divorce; a collective rejection of the way things are done in Europe. Nobody likes to be dumped or snubbed, but that is the way that many people, particularly those working in authority, see Brexit. For those people, it is not in their interest to allow British citizens the same freedoms and benefits enjoyed by EU citizens that still pay into the system.
What that means as an individual riding or driving on the continent is that you really need to keep your nose clean to remain under the radar of the authorities.
Infractions like not carrying an insurance Green Card or V5 logbook are liable to be met with a fine at least, or impounding of the vehicle at worst. If stopped at a country border you may be refused entry without the correct documents.
Like any divorce, hopefully, wounds will heal over time and we can return to a point where driving and riding in Europe is as frictionless as it once was. That will take time, maturity and good sense from politicians and officials both sides of the channel and some adjustment from our insurance industry.
NOTE: This article was written with the best available information on January 1st 2021. We will endeavour to update and clarify it as the Post-Brexit situation develops.
We make and sell various touring products and accessories