Travelling to Europe

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Published on 14 April 2021 by Mike Waters

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Filed under Category: The world of motorcycling

The BMF’s Political and Technical Services Director Anna Zee looks at travelling to the continent now that the United Kingdom has left the European Union. For her guide on specific topics related to this issue, please click here.

If you want to take a motorcycling holiday in Europe this year, the first thing you need to do is work out if it's possible when you take COVID-19 restrictions into account. You may find it really isn't practical anyway.

Apart from that, you will have the least hassle and the least expense if you ride the bike all the way there and all the way back. The companies whose business includes transporting road bikes to Europe say they don't know how it's supposed to be done.

If you and your bike are together, that's fine. You do need to check a few things, especially your bike and travel insurance, but otherwise it's pretty much the same as before. If you and your mate put your bikes in your mate's van and travel together, you should be okay too – but I don't know if that has actually been done yet.

But if you want to send the bike to, say, Italy and ride on public roads when you pick it up there, there is a problem or two. Once the bike is being transported without you, it becomes freight. Now that we are not part of the EU and the transition arrangements are finished, it has to go through Customs. It's okay if you want to transport a bike for a track day or for competition; there is more paperwork than there was last year, but it can be done. However, companies whose business includes transporting bikes for road use say they have been unable to find out how to do it this year.

One potential solution that was investigated is the use of ATA carnets, which are frequently used when transporting racing bikes. Tony Barker of EuroBikeTrans says:

"I asked three different Chambers of Commerce if they could provide an ATA carnet. Two of them refused, the other said they would and 'you would probably get away with it', but that's not how I do business."

Mark Shelton, who now owns Chas Mortimer's bike transport business, says: “It's a mess, the whole thing. Customs are busy training new personnel. If you ask three different people, you'll get three different answers.”

Unfortunately, it's not just the UK side that's a problem. The trade deal signed last December was ratified by the UK Parliament but has still not been signed off by the European Parliament. And, even if it had been, this is one of those things that hasn't been covered by the trade deal. It's not just UK Customs that don't have a clue; it's Customs on the European side too.

So don't be surprised if no-one can transport your bike, but it's not their fault. Let's hope that they don't go out of business before officialdom finally decides what the procedure should be. You can help by telling your MP this needs to be sorted.

There are, of course, internationally recognised systems for such shipping, as would be used if you send your bike anywhere other than Europe for your holiday. As far as we know, there is no problem on the eastern border of the EU. The simple solution would surely be for both the UK and the EU to adopt the same procedures for their common border.

The BMF will be working with the National Motorcyclists Council (NMC) for a resolution to this issue.

You can join the BMF and help us protect the rights of motorcyclists for just £28 a year. Find out more here