Out-Law / Your Daily Need-To-Know

'No deal' Brexit motor insurance confusion for Northern Ireland

Out-Law News | 15 Feb 2019 | 4:28 pm | 1 min. read

Drivers in Northern Ireland are receiving conflicting advice about the preparations they need to take to ensure that they can continue to drive in the Republic of Ireland with valid insurance should the UK leave the EU without a formal deal in place.

Last month, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) issued 'no deal' Brexit advice urging those who regularly drive on both sides of the Irish border to request a 'green card' from their UK insurer and carry it with them as proof of insurance. The same requirements will apply to UK motorists wishing to drive elsewhere in the EU, and EU motorists travelling to the UK.

The UK government said last year that the UK, including Northern Ireland, would remain within the motor insurance 'free circulation zone' after Brexit, removing the need for green cards for travel to and from the EU. It said that it had secured the agreement of the Council of Bureaux, which administers the green card system, but has not yet received formal approval and confirmation of an introductory date by the European Commission.

The BBC has now reported that motorists in Northern Ireland have begun applying for international driving permits at their local post offices. These permits are separate documents, available for an additional fee, and only cover travel between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, according to the report.

The Post Office said in a statement that it would be "reminding our branches to explain to customers that UK licence holders will not need an international driving permit to drive in Ireland".

The UK government had previously indicated that drivers from Northern Ireland would require an international driving permit to drive in the Republic of Ireland. This advice was subsequently withdrawn.

Approximately 110 million vehicles cross between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland every year including cars, HGVs and buses and coaches, according to the NI Department for the Economy.

Belfast-based insurance law expert Barnabus Shearer of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said that the reports were "further evidence of the confusion motorists and insurers are facing".

"This confusion will disproportionately affect those insured motorists in Northern Ireland, whose livelihoods depend on daily cross-border travel," he said.

The green card system is currently conducted on paper and documents cannot be delivered electronically. Each vehicle needs a separate certificate, and the ABI's guidance states that policyholders should apply at least one month before planned travel.