IAIN ROBERTSON 

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If you were concerned about the impact of the UK departing the EU political construct, while understandable, writes Iain Robertson, mainly due to a distinct information shortfall, rest assured, the ‘status quo’ remains in place.

Any and everything to do with the UK’s departure from the European Union has been almost as exciting as the dreaded New Millennium ‘bug’ that purported to ruin our existences on the 1st of January 2000. It did not and neither will ‘Brexit’. In fact, Friday 31st January 2020, at 11.00pm (midnight in Brussels) was merely the step-off point, with a wealth of complex negotiations to take place between now and the end of this year.

Amid significant sabre-rattling, from both sides it should be highlighted, the legislative reality will not hit until the final departure date. There will be changes. Yet, how much will change is yet to be determined and qualified. To those of us who can recall travelling from any British ports to the Continent of Europe in the pre-EU days, ensuring that your documentation was valid remains essential practice, just as it has always done so.

While carrying a ‘Green Card’ has not been required for several years, to obtain one demands that you contact your vehicle insurer, for which there may be a nominal charge. However, as trans-continental vehicle insurance validity is unlikely to alter, being aware of the rules is useful. Naturally a valid passport is still required and it will need to be shown to the relevant officials at the port of departure, or at the point of arrival. No change.

DSCThe Department for Transport (DfT) has already stated that an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) will not be required in 2020. Yet, it is planning for its reintroduction, should negotiations fail to maintain the status quo, from 1st January 2021. For what it is worth, drivers travelling to some locations outside of EU member countries, have always been required to obtain an IDP, which is valid for one year and costs (currently) £5.50 at a main Post Office. You will need to show your current, legal UK Driver’s Licence and possibly another form of identification to obtain one.

There has been much said about Duty Free Allowances, which have not existed for items of personal consumption for some time now. The days of the annual pre-Christmas ‘booze cruise’ might return but, as this is a swings-and-roundabouts issue that can affect both sides of the English Channel, with a view to moderately ‘frictionless trading’ being on the cards, it is unlikely to revert.

It remains to be seen what the various vehicle breakdown and support organisations, such as AA, RAC, Green Flag and others will levy on drivers venturing abroad with their vehicles. However, as most of them are merely insurance companies these days, you can reckon on an additional premium being charged, unless whatever package you have with them incorporates continental travel specifically. It is always advisable to ensure that you, your passengers and vehicle are covered comprehensively, should the unforeseen occur. Vehicle and occupant recovery can become very expensive otherwise.

DSCAs we drive on the left side of the road, we have always been required to meet the legal stipulations across Europe, when self-driving one’s own vehicle. These commence with headlamp adjusters (some of which are in-built into modern car headlamp units; your supplying dealer can provide you with the necessary information and even show you how to change the beam direction). However, removable beam deflectors are available at any High Street car accessory shop.

Most car dealers can provide you with ‘Replacement Bulb Packs’, making a notional charge for them that can be refunded upon your return, should they remain unopened. However, you are required to carry safety reflective vests for all occupants and an obligatory red warning triangle, to be erected should you endure a breakdown, or a puncture. It is advisable to carry both a fire extinguisher and a current First Aid Kit, as both are stipulated in some countries. However, if you are uncertain, simply check the international driving pages of their respective websites for necessary updates.

Take it for granted that nothing will change until the end of the year. However, you cannot remove the ‘human element’ and you may find that some Customs & Excise, or ‘Douanes’ officials in France, may have sharpened their official pencils and taken their interpretation of the rules into their own hands. I discovered some unanticipated ‘inspection delays’ on my most recent trip to France, which may have been isolated instances and a response to a border comment made by President Macron. Keeping one’s cool and responding to official requests is important at any border.

DSCAs to the rest of the motorcar business, once again, nothing has changed and will not change until next year. So much depends on whether our PM Boris Johnson agrees to either a co-operative trading arrangement with EU vehicle manufacturers, or a ‘No Deal’ scenario. If it is the latter, there is zero doubt that various duties and taxes will affect future business dealings. However, the UK remains a vital trading partner for both French and German carmakers and none of them can afford to turn their backs on maintaining such major opportunities. The fallout from a breakdown in negotiations would have a major impact on BMW, Mercedes-Benz, VW Group, PSA Groupe and FCA (Fiat-Chrysler), let alone myriad smaller players that rely on business links with the UK and a sizable percentage of their registrations in our market.

To a certain extent, both Japanese and South Korean manufacturers will be rubbing their hands with glee, should a ‘No Deal’ be declared with the EU. Of the latter, Kia/Hyundai is already enjoying a period of consistent growth arising from our market’s total acceptability of their excellent products. While Honda is no longer in a UK manufacturing frame (it is ramping down Swindon production, which closes in July 2021), both Nissan and Toyota (also with Suzuki) continue to produce vehicles in their respective UK factories for our market and exports.

Conclusion:      The bottom-line is NO change for the rest of 2020 but the situation may change for both cross-Channel travellers and the motor industry from 1st January 2021, by which time loin-girding may have occurred.