I’m sure many of us hope to head off on tour to Europe this year. My sailing to Santander, in Spain, is already booked, and in preparation, I’ve picked my way through the post-Brexit rules of riding in the EU.
Rest assured, the situation is not Armageddon but it does mean a bit more preparation is needed. You’ll also need to anticipate some problems which, while unlikely to arise, could absolutely skewer your adventure ride if you’re not ready for them. Until things settle down, this is what I am going to do.
As long as the UK Government doesn’t put visa requirements on any EU member state in 2021, we can travel over without the need for a visa. This is likely to change in 2022, but the application to get a European Travel Information and Authorization System visa (ETIAS) looks simple enough when one does become needed.
Keep it clean
For a simple life, when I get off the ferry at Santander, I am going to have nothing phytosanitary (plant based) or agriproduct on me. So, no sandwiches, teabags or a flask of milk, and my bike is going to be the cleanest it has ever been. I do not want the customs guys in Santander to send me home because my bike has British dirt on it.
This is of particular importance to us adventure riders because we sometimes play in the dirt. Customs officers have the power to block your entry if, in their opinion, your bike is a phytosanitary hazard. Anyone who has gone to Australia with muddy shoes will know the drill. Mud equals no entry.
Quite how this will work in Europe in this brave new world of the UK being a third party country is going to be heavily dependent upon the interpretation of the rules by local border control officers. To be safe, keep it clean.
Carry a Green Card
A green card is a requirement and I am printing off my digital green card along with the EU compliance page. This document shows that you have the minimum insurance cover needed by law in the country you are visiting.
You need a physical green card, a PDF on your phone is not sufficient. You do not need to print it on green paper but, as all police forces are aware of the ‘green card’, make your life easier and have it printed on green paper.
Believe it or not, outside of the UK and the Republic of Ireland, Brexit really is not that big a deal. In the sleepy back roads of Portugal, I am not going to expect a local policeman to be versed in the intricacies of the Withdrawal Agreement.
What has filtered down is the fact the UK has left the EU, so British motorists are third nation citizens and the default will be to treat us like Americans or Australians, so act like that. Have your green card so you can show a piece of official looking paper. People respond best to what they expect.
International Driving Permit
If you have a photocard driving licence, you do not need an International Driving Permit. Getting one is easy enough but I am not going to bother.
European Health Insurance Card
Your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will be valid as long as it is in date. I would expect those hospitals used to treating British nationals will be aware of this, but as the nuances of Brexit has not especially penetrated the general populations of the EU, expect to be at least queried outside of the popular tourist areas.
However, whether your EHIC is in date or not, you should always have travel and health insurance. Be sure to declare everything you are asked about on your proposal and make absolutely sure that your policy covers the use of a motorcycle of the capacity you are riding.
Border Crossings & Police Checks
Once inside the Schengen Area (where free and unrestricted movement of people is allowed), you are unlikely to have to produce your passport at any border crossing, but as a third party national, it’s a good idea to have it to hand just in case.
On the road, I am not expecting any more police attention in Europe post-Brexit than I got beforehand, on the simple proposition that most police officers can do without the hassle of mime and attempts at translation. But, just in case, make sure you have your green card, your Certificate of Motor Insurance, and your logbook (V5C) for your bike to hand.
Some riders may take the opportunity to ride like demons in Europe this year as it seems unlikely (although by no means certain) that fines from the EU will be able to follow you home to the UK. Cool, right? Maybe not so much.
I have tried to pick my way through this law and it seems that, as the UK has left the oversight of the European Court of Justice, exchange of data as to who is the rider of a motorcycle may not be given up by the DVLA in the UK to, for example, the French authorities, as matter of course. However, a request in writing to the DVLA from said French authorities, with good reason for asking who the keeper of a vehicle is, could still be fulfilled.
So, do not presume 130mph on the A21 in France is okay, especially as most European police forces have the power to impound a foreign vehicle. Prior to Brexit, it was easy for the police to enforce fines. Now it is easier to arrest you, impound your bike, and release you once your fine is paid.
The law on whether you need a GB sticker varies between nations. I am putting one on and losing my EU-style registration plate, it would be a harsh copper who would take the point that the EU number plate is for vehicles usually domiciled in an EU member state, but for around £12 for a new number plate, why not avoid the potential problem?
The easiest fix is to have GB on your number plate without the EU star roundel. In Spain, a GB sticker is mandatory. I’m trying to work out how to fit mine onto a bike with soft panniers for the few hundred miles of Spanish roads I’ll be riding before I hit the Portuguese trails this summer.
Adventure Bike Rider May/June 2021