Tuesday, 12 February 2019
Ceisteanna (Atógáil) - Questions (Resumed) - Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions
52. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the status of insurance green cards for motorists crossing the Border; the details of the one month’s notice that will be required of motorists; the process of production of the green cards; the application process for motorists; if there will be a cost; and the interventions made with the EU and Britain on behalf of motorists here to ensure that there will be a seamless transition for motorists crossing the Border if Britain leaves the EU without an agreement. [7050/19]
I wish to ask the Minister for an update on the matter of insurance green cards for motorists crossing the Border in the event of a no-deal Brexit and for further detail on the requirement for one month's notice he has indicated will apply to motorists. Can he outline the process of production of the green cards and what the application process for the motorists will be, including the cost? I ask him to provide details of all the interventions he has made with the EU and Britain on behalf of Irish motorists to ensure there is a seamless transition.
I thank Deputy Munster for her question. The green card is issued within the 48 countries covered by the Council of Bureaux for motor insurance and is a document whose production may be required to prove that insurance cover is in place for vehicles travelling between these countries, where alternative legislative provisions are not in place.
All EU member states are party to this system but the EU does not require production of a green card when travelling between member states. However, the default position is that green cards are required for vehicles entering the EU from third countries unless the EU Commission declares otherwise.
If the UK were to exit the EU without a deal, the default position would be that green cards would be required for EU-registered vehicles entering the UK and for UK-registered vehicles entering the EU. While the Government remains of the view that the best and only way to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the UK from the EU, including avoiding the necessity for green cards, is the ratification of the withdrawal agreement reached between the EU and the UK, the Government recognises that it is prudent to plan for the possibility of a no-deal exit.
The motor insurance industry is therefore behaving prudently in being prepared for the possibility that green cards will be required, even though this is not a desirable outcome. In line with the current expected Brexit date of 29 March 2019, the Motor Insurers Bureau of Ireland, MIBI, has indicated that insurers and insurance brokers will begin issuing green cards to policyholders from March if no agreement has been reached between the UK and the EU on Brexit and the process has not been further delayed. At that point anyone who plans on driving their Irish-registered vehicle in Northern Ireland or Britain should contact their insurer or insurance broker one month in advance of their expected travel date to ensure they receive their green card in sufficient time.
The MIBI has responsibility for the operation of the green card scheme in Ireland but individual insurance companies or brokers will issue them on its behalf. The insurers and insurance brokers are commercially run organisations and are independent in the actions that they take. The application processes involved are a matter for each individual company. Likewise any cost is a matter for the individual companies. The MIBI has indicated that some companies might charge a small administration fee.
As part of its contingency planning the Government has raised this matter directly with the European Commission, seeking agreement from it to set a date from which green cards would not be required. This is a matter between the EU and the UK.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
It would be wholly inappropriate as well as ineffective for an individual member state to seek to make a unilateral intervention with the UK authorities. The setting of a date is possible under Article 8(2) of the motor insurance directive. The Commission has not given agreement to date and the Government continues to pursue the matter with it. The Commission advised the MIBI and the international Council of Bureaux that it is keeping the matter under close and constant review as part of its Brexit preparedness work.
There are 68,000 vehicle journeys across the Border per day. We are six weeks out from a no-deal Brexit scenario. At last week's committee meeting, I asked the Minister some questions about the insurance green card, among other queries. He said he was unaware of some of the circumstances or conditions around it. That is fair to say. The Minister said two things, however. His first point was that 400,000 green cards are being printed and they will be available on demand.
It is up to people to apply for them.
The Minister also indicated that one month's advance notice would be required for the delivery of a green card to an individual. He has just stated that the motor insurance industry has confirmed that it will start issuing them from March. As of today, we are six weeks away from a no-deal Brexit. If it takes one month for delivery, that will give people only two weeks in which to apply. In the course of his conversations with those in the industry, did the Minister flag the fact that a volume of people will be forced to apply for these green cards? Did he also flag the short timeframe involved and the chaos this will cause if it is not done properly?
Obviously, the Deputy is very well aware of the numbers of these green cards that will be needed and possibly applied for and distributed by the insurance companies. The insurance companies are taking the initiative in this and they will be printing at a rate of knots to satisfy a demand that may or may not exist. This is a preparatory move. I do not need to flag it with them; they are aware of it. The insurance companies will make their own rules about where and when they issue the green cards but I am pleased to state that they are preparing for a no-deal Brexit, as any prudent companies ought to do in this situation. I certainly did not flag it with them because they knew about it. The Motor Insurers Bureau of Ireland, MIBI, has already taken the initiative on this particular issue so it does not take me to do that. Obviously, it would be preferable if this was not happening at all but if the MIBI decides it wants to do it or charge for it, that is up to it. My position is simply that I would rather that this did not have to happen but if is happening, so be it.
I raise these questions because I am a Deputy who represents a Border county. If I or others want to travel to south Armagh from County Louth, a 30-minute journey, we do not want to have to produce green cards in order to do so. I also asked the also at the meeting last Wednesday if he had intervened specifically to deal with the issue of some form of dispensation. Some 25 million journeys are made via 300 Border crossings on an annual basis. I had said that unless the EU, the British Government and the Minister on behalf of this Government stepped in, a dispensation would not be possible. I ask the Minister again. Did he meet them to discuss this specific issue of a dispensation, what was the outcome and to whom did he speak? Did he also make reference to recognising the existing relationship in respect of motor insurance cover, North and South, without requirement for green cards? Did he raise the common travel area? Did he ask if this dispensation could be accommodated under the Good Friday Agreement?
The Deputy is asking about the interventions. The Government has raised this matter directly with the European Commission and we have looked to it for a date from which green cards would not be required. That would satisfy the Deputy and many of her constituents who would be travelling backwards and forwards across the Border. It is a matter between the EU and the UK and it would be wholly inappropriate as well as ineffective for an individual member state to seek to make a unilateral intervention with the UK authorities. The setting of a date is possible under Article 8.2 of the motor insurance directive. The Commission has not given agreement to date and the Government continues to pursue the matter with it. The Commission advised the MIBI and the Council of Bureaux that it is keeping the matter under "close and constant review" as part of its Brexit preparedness work.