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France and UK debate the meaning of ‘means of transport’

Just when we thought the problems with transporting a motorcycle or a car from the UK to the European Union were solved, new problems arise.

After the European Commission confirmed that transporting a motorcycle or a car (‘means of transport’) from the United Kingdom to the continent should not be a problem, a discussion has started among French and British customs authorities about when a motorcycle or car is a ‘means of transport’.

This is an ongoing subject, expect more updates.

In the latest twist in the issue of customs formalities when transporting motorcycles across the EU/UK border in vans or on trailers, FEMA, NMC (National Motorcyclists Council UK) and FIVA, the historic vehicle federation, have received updated advice from the UK Government during a meeting held between the NMC and the UK Government’s Cabinet Office borders group.

This meeting was held as a result of the letter that the three riders’ organisations received from the European Commission, suggesting that there should be no onerous customs formalities for moving bikes in vans or on trailers. The UK Government used the letter to reopen talks on the issue with France and has undertaken further checks with various customs authorities on their understanding of the issue in light of the European Commission’s letter.

‘Customs can take the view that a road registered motorcycle stops being a means of transport when it is being carried by another vehicle.’

Unfortunately, there is an issue with what customs authorities regard as ‘means of transport’ under various international treaties and regulations. It has now emerged that in technical terms, customs can take the view that a road registered motorcycle stops being a means of transport for the purposes of crossing a border when it is being carried by another vehicle, temporarily becoming ‘goods in transit’. This appears to be what has happened in France, where customs have in some cases insisted that motorcycles (and cars) in vans, lorries or on trailers are accompanied by an ATA Carnet.

Talks continue to take between UK, EU and French officials aimed at seeking a final resolution to the issue and riders’ groups are maintaining close contact with both the UK and EU authorities.

However, until a final resolution is reached, FEMA, FIVA and NMC are now advising that riders check carefully with customs authorities about individual border requirements when transporting motorcycles to and from the UK and EU in a van or on a trailer. There seems to be varying ways the rules are applied between EU countries.

Dolf Willigers, FEMA’s General Secretary: “The letter received from the European Commission indicated that there had been resolution to the issue. However, there is still a problem with the interpretation of international customs treaties and regulations by individual national authorities, with requirements sometimes differing between EU Member States when it comes to how rules are enforced by customs officers themselves on the borders. As a result, we feel that updated advice needs to be issued. In tandem, via the NMC, we have asked the UK Government to publish further advice on the rules for movements of bikes in vans or on trailers into the UK. It seems nonsensical that such technical detail can determine when a road registered motorcycle effectively is or isn’t a road-going motorcycle in customs terms. Once it is offloaded from another vehicle after crossing the border it becomes a means of transport again – requiring no customs formalities. This is an absurd situation, and we call on various customs authorities to resolve the matter as fast as possible.”

NMC Executive Director Craig Carey-Clinch said: “Without a doubt the work done jointly by FEMA, FIVA and the NMC has ‘shifted the dial’ on this issue and led to the reopening of talks between the UK and individual EU Member States which had stalled on this issue back in December. The UK Government supports the riders’ groups position on this and have reported that similarly, France may also now be keen to find a resolution. But there are technical issues at play in relations to customs regulations. The NMC have proposed a potential solution which the UK will discuss with counterparts within the EU, but we fear that it could be some months before this is finally resolved. In the meantime, we urge riders to check the rules carefully before transporting their bikes to and from the EU in a van or on a trailer.”

Top photograph courtesy of

Photographs by Wim Taal

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