Brexit: Will motor vehicles require a Green Card to travel?

The UK formally left the European Union on 31 January 2020. Uncertainty remains on whether a Free Trade Agreement will be in place following the end of the Transition Period on 31 December 2020. Whilst the current situation regarding the new strain of the Covid-19 virus has resulted most European temporarily closing their borders to UK arrivals, on or after 1 January 2021 all UK motorists driving in the European Economic Area (EEA), Andorra, Serbia and Switzerland will need physical proof of motor insurance when they travel, commonly referred to as a Green Card, if no agreement is reached.

What are Green Cards?

If the UK leaves the EU without an agreement in place, motorists will be required to carry a Green Card for international travel between the UK and the EEA and those additional countries listed above. Green Cards are international certificates of insurance issued by insurance providers, guaranteeing that the motorist has the necessary minimum motor insurance cover for driving in the country being travelled to.

Green Cards are not currently required for travel from the UK to other EEA countries, but in a no deal scenario, there is a possibility that the UK will no longer be a part of the European motor insurance ‘free circulation zone’.

An important aspect of the change is that motorists must carry the Green Card in printed format, so a HARD-COPY document is required. To assist with this, the Government has confirmed legislation to permit ‘black and white’ Green Cards – or in other words, Green Cards printed on white paper – which should help many businesses obtain Green Cards from their insurer electronically to allow printing of the document on a home printer or in the office. This was approved by the Council of Bureaux (CoB) from July 2020 onwards.

In summary, here are 3 key points to remember…

  • Having a Green Card will be a legal requirement in the event of No Deal or further developments in UK / EU negotiations that deal specifically with motor insurance.
  • You must have a printed copy of your Green Card in the vehicle as proof of insurance.
  • Each vehicle must have its own unique Green Card.

How will my business be affected?

While the possible changes would affect all motorists travelling internationally, commercial operators will need to pay particular attention to these changes. Green Cards will need to be applied for in advance and as detailed in our previous point, one Green Card will be needed for each vehicle registration, regardless of whether it is part of a fleet. Special attention will also need to be paid to the differences between countries’ rules; for example, trailers and vehicles are usually considered one unit within the UK, but in some EU member states there is a need to specifically state the trailer coverage with an identification number.

Travel between Northern Ireland and Ireland is a particular concern, with a significantly higher number of commercial vehicles regularly crossing the border each day when compared with the UK and Continental Europe. Not having a Green Card means you would not have proof of insurance and would be in breach of the law. There is also the likelihood that documentation such as Green Cards will be rigorously checked at border check points.

Will I have to pay when I apply for a Green Card?

Most insurers will be supplying Green Cards to their policyholders with no additional administration charge. Planning for a scenario that involved motorists being required to have a Green Card has been underway for many months so online access to apply for a Green Card is available with many insurers. If you are a Griffiths & Armour client and have questions concerning your insurer and their arrangements, please get in touch with your main contact or broker and they will be happy to assist you.

I am due to travel to Europe before 31 December, do I need to request a Green Card immediately?

If your vehicle(s) are being taken outside of the UK prior to 31 December 2020 and are not due to return before 31 December 2020, please get in touch with your Griffiths & Armour broker who will assist you with advice on how to obtain a Green Card. Despite the lack of clarity on the outcome of current UK – EU negotiations, most insurers will be issuing Green Cards covering the remainder of your policy period as a precautionary measure.

What other ways could my business insurance be affected following Brexit?

If your business currently has insurance cover arranged by a UK broker for your European business operations or EU subsidiaries, you will need to discuss the potential impact on arranging cover beyond 31 December. This may include any assets or offices you have in Europe and placement of policies from the UK for EEA risks. Please also consider any travel and health / medical care insurance you have in place, especially as the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will not be valid to the majority of UK citizens from 1 January 2021. You can find out more about who qualifies for EHIC from 1 January by clicking here. Businesses who export to the EU or who undertake work on EU projects from their UK based businesses should not require any change. That said, our advice to Griffiths & Armour clients is if you have any doubts or questions, please get in touch with us and we will be happy to provide you with specific guidance that relates to your business.

What next?

At the time of writing this article, the outcome of the Brexit transition negotiations is still undecided, and therefore it remains to be seen whether these new requirements will be put into place. However, Griffiths & Armour recommends clients are prepared to comply with new requirements and cover all eventualities. As is always the case, we are ready and available to provide advice and support you and your business to meet any additional requirements to keep your business operational, safe and fully protected. Please get in touch by clicking on the button below or contacting your Griffiths & Armour main point of contact and we will be ready to assist you.