In recent years, we have reported on the threat posed by the so-called ‘Vnuk’ judgement by the European Court of Justice (CJEU). We had hoped that moves in Brussels to amend the Motor Insurance Directive (MID) would see exemptions granted to motor and motorcycle sport, but recent proposals to amend the MID have seen the European Commission do a U-turn and Vnuk is now in danger of becoming a serious reality.
The background to all this is that in 2007, a Mr Vnuk in Slovenia was knocked off a ladder at work by a reversing tractor and trailer. He was injured and claimed compensation from the tractor’s motor insurance and, as the incident happened away from the public road, the claim was outside the policy and the insurer refused to pay. The CJEU became involved and ruled that the Slovenian government had failed to transpose the directive into national law correctly and the Motor Insurance Directive required that all vehicles must have insurance cover for all uses everywhere, covering all risks and liabilities. This ruling was challenged by the British, Irish and German governments, but in 2014 the CJEU rejected the appeal.
The UK government, along with sports bodies and industry, lobbied the European Commission to change the legislation so that motorsport would be exempt. We were helped by insurance bodies such as BIBA and the ABI, who stated that insuring motorsport in the same way as normal road use would be extremely expensive (particularly for vehicle to vehicle collisions on the track) and that such a policy would not be commercially viable. No underwriter would want to enter this market. The UK government also supports our position on the matter.
In April 2016, the argument that motorsport was a case apart was accepted by the then commissioner in charge of this portfolio, Lord Hill, who directed that an amendment be tabled shortly to be completed by the end of the year. However, rather than publish immediately, he held a consultation and then, after the Brexit vote, Lord Hill resigned. The new commissioner in charge decided to roll the amendment into a longer process known as ‘Refit’ that included the issue with several other changes to the Motor Insurance Directive.
The European Commission held two more consultations on the issue during 2017. The responses to both were overwhelmingly in favour of the EU exempting motorsport from mandatory insurance requirements but in May 2018, two years after the commission promised to exempt motorsport, they published a formal proposal for an amendment and an impact assessment that explicitly included motorsport in the scope for compulsory motor insurance.
The detail of this proposal was to include a definition of the ‘use of a vehicle’ that included all uses of a vehicle on all terrains, whether moving or stationary.
If adopted, this proposal will mean that all vehicles (ranging from family cars, museum pieces, off-road bikes or MotoGP bikes) will need a minimum third-party motor insurance covering all damages and liabilities at all times and for all uses, including use on a closed circuit.
We now have a short window of opportunity to stop the threat of Vnuk becoming reality. The AMCA, along with the ACU and the MCIA, are already working hard to ensure that our European counterparts lobby their governments and members of the European Parliament (EP). The objective is to get the European Parliament to amend the European Commission proposals, so that motor and motorcycle sports are removed from the scope of the directive. But it is vital that other EU governments are also brought on side, given that the EP vote will only be advisory and not binding on the commission.
Votes in Europe will take place later this year. If we are unsuccessful in getting the proposed directive amended, the theatre of action then moves to the UK, where we will be calling on the UK government to not implement under any circumstances. At that point we may request the direct help of clubs in contacting MPs, though there is nothing wrong with writing to your MP about the matter now.
Given the current state of the Brexit negotiations, we cannot look to Brexit to solve this problem for us. European directives may still apply to motor insurance after the UK leaves the EU. In any case, this is a European problem, not just a UK matter. Irrespective of the UK’s place in the future, we will do what we can to support our European colleagues and friends in their endeavours to save motor and motorcycle sport.
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