Up to EU and UK to resolve 'green card' for motorists, Tánaiste says

Simon Coveney insists Government cannot act alone - issue for European Commission

Brexit: People from the Bogside in Derry  not happy  that they need the card to cross over to Buncrana in Donegal. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty

Brexit: People from the Bogside in Derry not happy that they need the card to cross over to Buncrana in Donegal. Photograph: Charles McQuillan/Getty

 

The European Commission needs to directly resolve the issue of the “green card” requirement with the UK for motorists driving between Ireland and Northern Ireland, Tánaiste Simon Coveney has said.

Ireland could not sort the matter on its own, he insisted as opposition TDs from border counties highlighted the anger and confusion among motorists over a decision by the insurance industry to issue green cards to ensure motorists crossing the border were covered in a post-Brexit scenario.

Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty criticised the Government and said this should have been dealt with when the common travel area was being considered.

Mr Coveney insisted however that the Government and the Minister for Transport could not have resolved this problem because it is an EU issue.

The EU has contingency plans in place with Britain on aviation and other areas of transport but not yet for this, he said during the ongoing debate on the Brexit Omnibus Bill to ensure the status quo prevails in key strategic areas including health, transport and finance, in the event of the UK crashing out of the EU.

Mr Doherty said the website of the British body with responsibility in this area stated that motorists in Britain they did not need a green card for any EU jurisdiction and it was only for outside the EU, and he questioned why it was needed in Ireland.

People from the Bogside in Derry were not happy to be told that they need the card to cross over to Buncrana in Donegal, he added.

A lot of people are “very angry that they have to have an international insurance certificate to cross the Lifford bridge” that they have crossed every day of their lives.

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Own rules

The Donegal TD said his own insurance company emailed all their policy holders and told everyone to apply a month in advance. Mr Doherty said he phoned a month in advance and was told to phone again in two weeks when they would know better.

He was concerned that a motorist’s car could be impounded.

Fine Gael Louth TD Fergus O’Dowd said it seemed “every insurance company is following its own rules and there is no united front on it”.

He said the EU and British government could reach a consensus on this but “the whole thing is an appalling mess”.

Sinn Féin transport spokeswoman Imelda Munster, a Louth TD sharply criticised Minister for Transport Shane Ross who at a recent transport committee meeting “literally knew damn all or had damn all information” on the issue.

And she said “he made no effort to seek a dispensation. That is shocking. It’s contributed to and created the confusion and uncertainty that people now feel.”

But the Tánaiste said that cars driven from Ireland to Northern Ireland were covered under the EU motor insurance directive but if the UK leaves the EU without a plan the directive would not apply.

He said the insurance industry in its contingency planning decided to issue a green card, which he described as “slightly unfortunately named” as proof of insurance cover for drivers going north.

But he said it was not a question of drivers being stopped at the border.

Earlier TDs accepted a “precautionary amendment” introduced by Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe to allow for no duty free between Ireland and the UK if the British government publicly commits to such an arrangement.

The UK had indicated it would not introduce duty free between Ireland and the UK.

Fianna Fail finance spokesman Michael McGrath said that airports and ports in Ireland had expressed concern that they would be at a disadvantage if other EU countries introduced duty free and Mr Doherty asked about cross border shopping and the consideration given by the EU to the matter.

The Minister said the EU had given little consideration to this as it did not affect other EU countries to the extent that did between Ireland and the UK because of the passenger volumes between the two countries.

He also pointed out that under World Customs Organisation rules which the UK as well as the rest of the EU had membership of, said that duty free should only be available at ports and airports and not at land borders, so he did not anticipate much consequence from cross border shopping.