Touring In Europe Post-Brexit

Touring In Europe Post-Brexit

ABR’s legal expert Andrew Dalton explains the steps you’ll need to take while motorcycle touring in Europe post-Brexit

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.

VISA Requirements

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.

Speeding Fines

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.

GB Sticker

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.

Andrew Dalton

Adventure Bike Rider May/June 2021

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Posted by Andrew Dalton. Last modified: May 21, 2021 at 11:42 am

Andrew Dalton is a highly experienced trial lawyer who delights in taking on difficult and demanding motorcycle cases. He has a tough and relentless litigation style and is utterly focused on getting the best possible outcomes for his clients.
Disclaimer: The legal advice and statements contained within this/these articles is correct at the time of printing. If you are seeking legal advice after a motorbike accident please contact us to speak directly with one of our lawyers.
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Richard Taylor
Richard Taylor
23 days ago

Hi Andrew,
Good information, but there appears to be plenty of it about for the popular tourist destinations. I’m hoping to ride to a rally in Romania in early August, passing through France, Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. May also need to dip into Austria and Serbia.( I understand the latter could be a problem as they are outside the EU and the Green Card scheme so could miss it out if too difficult) Do you see any other issues, such as need for advance Covid tests at border crossings?

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
Reply to  Richard Taylor
9 days ago

Hi Richard.
If you stay in the EU for more than 90 days in 180 days you will need a visa unless you hold an EU nationality. If less than 90 days then the only issue I see (apart from the ever changing Covid rules) is a lot of green cards only have 30 days validity on fully comp and revert to minimum cover after 30 days but with so few people taking vehicles overseas I cannot say how this is panning out. I have not had to look at this especially closely as I hold Finnish citizenship and therefore have my EU rights of free movement. The insurance rules do impact on me though as my bike is registered and domiciled in the UK – with UK insurance. I am going to Portugal and Spain, I hope, in September. I have checked each countries rules as EU States regulate non EU drivers differently and there are different green card regulations but if you have a green card, travel insurance, evidence of accommodation and evidence of sufficient funds then you should be okay. Disturbingly there are quite regular reports of EU Nationals being held by UK Border Force for either unlawful or specious reasons and I am concerned there may be reciprocal hardening on the other side of the Channel. Holiday makers seem to be exempt from excessive hassle but EU Nationals meeting up with family or coming for job interviews seem to be getting a hard time entering the UK with detentions of EU citizens at the border rising exponentially despite travel restrictions. I am concerned that unless this calms down there will be reciprocal hassles for the lone traveller on a motorcycle without pre booked accommodation. I hope I am wrong.

About Adventure Bike Rider

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Andrew Dalton has written articles in Adventure Bike Rider for a few years now. Founder and Publisher of Adventure Bike Rider, Alun Davies, explains how the magazine came about.

"Adventure Bike Rider came into existence for three reasons; first there was my lifelong passion for travel and motorcycles; secondly there was a huge hole in the UK motorcycle media for a magazine that focused on the booming adventure bike sector and thirdly I had a motorcycle accident that curtailed one of my other passions in life - climbing mountains."

"The plus side of wiping out on a rocky trail in Spain is all the free time that comes with having a bust up arm, foot and leg. And what better use of that recovery time than to set up and launch ABR magazine."

"That was back in 2009 and since then ABR has grown to become the largest adventure bike community in the world. During an average week our social media reach nudges 1 million, on a good week that doubles to 2 million. This website has a thriving community of adventure riders and hosts the busiest adventure forum in the UK with hundreds of thousands of readers and visitors from around the world."

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