Brexit – what happens now for bikers?

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Published on 2 March 2020 by Mike Waters

The BMF’s Political and Technical Services Director Anna Zee looks at what the post-Brexit world holds for motorcyclists

brexitWill Brexit make a difference to the bikes which are available?
Probably not.

There are effectively three major markets for motorcycles – America, Asia and Europe – and a good deal of the regulations that apply to the manufacture of motorcycles, or any other road vehicle, are set at a global level by the UN/ECE.

For a long time now, the EU has effectively rubber-stamped these regulations, with some rules added by way of Type Approval legislation. This may specify, for example, permitted noise levels of exhaust systems or ABS for larger motorcycles.

It seems likely that the UK will rubber-stamp the UN/ECE rules too. Outside the EU, the UK could make its own Type Approval rules. The government has previously stated that the UK will mirror EU rules, but it remains to be seen whether they will stick to that. In any case, would there be much point? It seems highly unlikely that major manufacturers would care to make bikes just for the UK market because it’s not that big.

Manufacturers based in the UK export much of their production, and they will continue to produce bikes to fit the specifications for the major markets. I expect UK riders will continue to be supplied with bikes for the general European market.

What the UK will lose is any direct input to the EU Type Approval rules. The only possible influence UK riders may have will be via membership of the Federation of European Motorcyclists’ Associations (FEMA), of which the BMF is a part.

The EU negotiated a trade deal with Japan last year that will result in a reduction in import tariffs over the next few years on motorcycles from Japan. UK bike buyers will miss out on that unless the UK can strike a matching deal with Japan as well.

brexitTesting and licensing
In theory, post-Brexit, the UK could make changes to the motorcycle testing and licensing regime created to fulfil the third Driving Licence Directive.

However, I consider it highly unlikely that there would be any appetite for really substantial changes and it is doubtful that the government would consider it a priority. The DVSA already has plans in place so that riders can upgrade their licence through training rather than testing. It doesn’t hurt that Mark Winn, who was head of the motorcycling part of the DVSA, is now head of the whole shebang.

The only problem now is that it needs to be done via primary legislation – i.e. it has to go through Parliament – and there is some difficulty in getting the legal resources required to draft the legislation at the moment. Parliamentary time once that has happened should not be a problem, however, since it would probably take less than five minutes.

Another issue with the current regime is the fact that a proportion of riders are content to ride on L-plates and never take a full test. That said, leaving the EU has no effect one way or the other on this. 

Motor Insurance Directive
We had some issues with proposed changes to the Motor Insurance Directive (remember the name Vnuk?). As it happens, the Directive did not get through the last EU Parliament and it is still in the process of going through the current Parliament.

Therefore, UK legislation has not been changed and I think there is a good chance that UK legislation will remain unchanged. There have been one or two cases in court which related to the scope of motor insurance, but I do not know if they would have major consequences. That will be something for us to look into. 

Roaming charges
Roaming charges will remain as they are during the transition phase. 

brexitRiding in the EU
The original guidance on the government website was predicated on a no-deal Brexit, but the page giving this guidance was withdrawn at the end of January 2020 – just a week after I commented on the fact it was going to be out of date at a road users meeting.

Since we are leaving with a withdrawal agreement, this worst-case scenario does not apply – not yet, at least! Until the end of 2020, it should be safe to assume you don’t need to do anything differently from last year.

 The worst case scenario – which, if negotiations don’t go well (you didn’t really think Brexit was ‘done’, did you?), could apply as soon as 2021 – is that: 

• You need a passport which has at least six months to run and is less than 10 years old.
• You may need one or two International Driving Permits depending on where you go, for how long, and whether you have a photocard licence or not.
• You will need a ‘green card’ in addition to your bike insurance.
• You will need to ensure that your travel insurance provides appropriate health/medical cover when the EHIC card becomes invalid.

The above applies if you are going on holiday on your bike. If you are, for example, driving a van to transport your race bike, additional paperwork may be required.

With respect to your bike insurance, I suggest that you check with your insurance provider. Your policy should currently provide some third-party cover for travel in the EU, although this may be restricted in some way – e.g. limited to a maximum of, say, 90 days. You may want to ask for documentation that says you have cover. Eventually, you may need a ‘green card’ too depending on what sort of deal may be struck.

Useful links

The following web pages should be helpful, so I recommend that you look for yourself before you travel:


This article originally appeared in the Spring 2020 issue of Motorcycle Rider.

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