First published in DURO RIDER Gazette
Europe – From the recent referendum results on the UK leaving Europe it seems that motorcycling did not feature in an “in” or “out” option for leaving the EU.
Indeed why should it be? There were more important issues to be kicked around like a ball betwixt the politicians, the press and the general public. Not so much a six yard box melee or in a scrum, but more like a collective dash to scramble on to trucks and trains at Calais, which has been an underlying current for a lot of people.
The Motor Cycle Industry Association (MCI) which represents “bigger” businesses, mainly the motorcycle manufacturers, in the UK and in Europe through ACEM (‘Association des Constructeurs Européens de Motocycles) comments that it, “Will carefully consider economic modelling and ramifications for the medium term to support those of its members who now have a new range of opportunities. For the near term, we continue to be in the EU and current type approval and single market regulation (such as licensing etc) will still affect us. Our trading environment will not significantly change in the immediate future.” Thus not much change but some caution between the lines of unknown changes.
It adds, “MCIA will work closely with the government departments responsible to ensure its members are continually appraised of developing opportunities. In the immediate short term it is to be hoped that a weakened pound and unpredictable interest rates do not overly damage the sector’s positive recovery over recent years.”
While there have been stirrings in the world of motorcycling on social media (a virtual place I live in) of touring businesses reining in their future plans and one small side-car construction business having an order cancelled, the worry is right now and not next week.
We can look at possible post Brexit solutions from Norway, which voted not to join the EU in its own referendums many years ago, through the Norwegian rider group NMCU (Norsk Motorcykkel Union).
The BMF (British Motorcyclists Federation) recently interviewed NMCU’s General Secretary, Morten Hansen. He gave an insight into Norway’s relationship with the EU, some say this is the model that the UK should follow, however it is not that simple and here is not the place to explain, but all is not rosy in that particular bed.
Morten explains that, “Norwegian riders do not have MEPs to approach, and Norwegian ministers have no say in the Council of Ministers. The only way Norwegian riders can influence EU motorcycle politics is through NMCU being an active member of FEMA. (Federation of European Motorcyclists Associations).” Morten adds, (when asked if all imports relating to motorcycles comply with EU regulations) “Yes, the only exemption from EU type approval is national approval of small series and amateur-built motorcycles, and these vehicles cannot legally be exported.”
Both rider groups in the UK, British Motorcyclists Federation (BMF) and the Motorcycle Action Group (MAG) are members of FEMA whose mission is to promote riders’ interests and defend riders’ rights throughout Europe (by engaging with the Europe Institutions from its Brussels base) and globally.
Does an exit from the EU mean an exit from FEMA by UK rider groups or will they be sitting at the table along with Norway?
Prior to the referendum, in the BMF member’s magazine Motorcycle Rider, the Chairperson Jim Freeman writes, “The BMF will remain a full member of FEMA, whatever the outcome on June 23rd (…) if we are no longer a part of the EU, our only EU political representation as motorcyclists will be via FEMA.” Jim further expands on what this means inside the UK, “Any UK legislation related to motorcycling will continue to be primarily dominated be the EU. There are really only three standards for vehicle design at a global level: the US, Japan and the EU. The bikes that we ride are still going to conform to one of those basic standards, our market is too small to have a unique standard, and manufacturers will still make bikes that meet the EU criteria.”
The continued participation by the BMF with FEMA is reflected by the FEMA President who states that, “The UK’s referendum result does not change anything for FEMA and we do not anticipate any changes in membership in the foreseeable future.”
But what about MAG?
Quoting from the MAG activists’ newsletter – Network – from a report written by their, “Team Double L”, Leon Mannings, Campaigns & Policy Adviser and Lembit Opik, Director of Communications & Public Affairs, they write that leaving the EU was to some extent, “an Independence Day for bikers in the UK”.
They continue, “MAG will only have to engage with members of Parliaments and Councils and offices in the UK. We will also be shifting further into a situation in which UK Ministers or Mayors could try to impose even greater restrictions on motorcycles and motorcycle use – but at least they won’t be able to justify such moves on the basis of complying with new EU Directives or needing to avoid paying huge EU fines.” However, Team Double L’s words seem disingenuous.
What interests me is what type of bikes we will be riding. What will the Brexit bike be like?
John Chatterton-Ross, Director of Public Affairs for FIM & FIM Europe comments: “We do not see much change to our work with the EU institutions. There will be no change to the regulations that govern type approval of motorcycles as UK factories such as Triumph will continue to export to the EU.
This will not change the systems of vehicle regulations where the United Nations ECE (UNECE) in Geneva takes the lead either.”
With my own experience working in the EU and UNECE on motorcycle vehicle regulations, I share the views of the BMF and FIM & FIM Europe’s representatives. In that respect, Brexit is hardly an Independence Day for UK Bikers.
What about UK riders? The general consensus throughout social media is that riders will now be able to ride free from threats from the EU. Ya think!?
In 2012 the European Parliament passed the Approval and Market Surveillance of two – or three-wheel Vehicles and Quadricycles, which led to misinformation and apprehension building on previous real motorcycling threats from the EU.
Looking at some of these “threats”, whether they are real or not, have been discussed or decided through the involvement of riders in the UK, in Europe or at a Global level with governments, their civil servants and politicians with or without agreement.
OBD (On Board Diagnostics) does not mean “them” accessing information or spying on what riders are doing. OBD means that riders, independent mechanics get the same universal electronic access to repair and maintenance information as the manufacturers.
Daytime Running Lights (DRL) & Automatic Headlights On (AHO) although made compulsory in the above regulations, AHO was already fitted voluntarily by the main manufacturers, starting a decade ago. Motorcycles do not require mandatory DRL diode lights.
Power Limits – the above regulation got rid of the possibility of member states like France using EU Legislation to restrict motorcycles to a maximum 100bhp (74kw).
The fear that anti-tampering on bikes that would end home maintenance and customising – this was dealt with yet again in the above 2012 regulation and demonstrates that the fear was unfounded. Those who build full on customising bikes/trikes can continue to do so within their own country regulations.
Anti-tampering still exists for mopeds, with medium powered bikes now included, matching the licence requirement regulations for those who have not got the appropriate full licence.
Noise control – there are already UNECE/EU noise regulations in place for what exhausts/end cans may be fitted, which continues to be reviewed.
Some suggest replacing the 3rd European Driving Licence Directive (3DLD) with a UK version that is less costly and restrictive, meaning more riders on bikes. Although having been involved in the lobbying process at the time in Brussels, the problems came from the UK civil servants gold plating the directive.
Indeed, John Chatterton-Ross, Director of Public Affairs for FIM & FIM Europe comments, “It is possible some aspects of the EU Driving licence system may be lightened in the UK….but to be frank it was the UK which over complicated the implementation of that in the first place! – Applying a system far more complex than was necessary in the first place if you compare the riding test in the UK with Ireland where the exact same law is applied in a simpler way.”
The best quote I have heard post Brexit was from the Times Journalist Rachel Sylvester who likened the referendum result to the famous Michael Caine line from the Italian Job, “You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off”.
Any post “Brexit” motorcycle will still require EU regulations. Our civil servants or politicians will not be at the EU table thus leaving riders to make sure that the bloody doors don’t get blown off.
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