Brussels is moving towards granting the UK’s drivers an exemption from having to carry additional paperwork when they travel to Europe, in a step likely to be welcomed by British holidaymakers eyeing summer holidays on the continent.
The European Commission is consulting with EU national governments on granting the UK a waiver so that drivers would not need to carry a proof-of-insurance document known as a “green card” when they travel to the 27-country bloc, according to EU officials.
Britain, which lost its waiver following the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31, has been trying to secure such a waiver over the past two years. EU officials said a positive decision could be taken by Brussels in a matter of weeks if the consultations go smoothly.
The green card system operates in a 48-country zone that includes the entire EU and the UK.
Within the EU, a waiver applies which means drivers are not actually required to print out and carry the green card documents which prove that they have third-party insurance and so can legally drive in the bloc.
In the absence of a waiver, motorists in the green card zone who do not carry the documents are liable to be stopped and — in a worst-case scenario — have their vehicles impounded by foreign police forces. Drivers also risk fines and prosecution.
While the UK has been seeking for some time to solve the issue, Brussels held out on taking any decisions last year while the two sides were locked in high-stakes trade talks. A post-Brexit trade deal was eventually agreed on December 24.
The EU’s reticence about granting the waiver stoked concerns at the time that British motorists, unaware of their new obligations, could have found themselves on the wrong side of the law when driving abroad — a problem minimised by the Covid-19 pandemic and its stringent restrictions on foreign travel.
Graeme Trudgill, executive director, of the British Insurance Brokers’ Association, said a waiver on green cards would be hugely welcomed by the association and motorists as they prepared for summer holidays. “This waiver is something we have pushed for long and hard. If this is confirmed it would be fantastic news for British motorists,” he said.
He added that with international travel for Britons potentially allowed from May 17, the sooner any waiver could be made operational, the better. “It would obviously be good to have it done within that timeframe,” he said.
On Monday, Brussels announced a plan to allow tourists from countries with a “good epidemiological situation” into the bloc if they have been fully vaccinated.
The commission has already granted waivers to several countries outside the EU and wider European Economic Area including Switzerland, Serbia and Andorra — but Britain’s request was left unanswered during the whole of 2020.
The impasse persisted despite the British Insurance Brokers’ Association urging the commission to make the decision in order to spare millions of motorists a bureaucratic headache and unwittingly falling foul of the law.
Britain’s bid to benefit from a waiver is being considered along that of Montenegro. EU officials said Brussels was consulting with national governments on the draft plan to admit the countries, with capitals needing to verify some details before further steps are taken.