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No customs formalities when bringing UK bikes to the European Union

British motorcyclists who had their bike transported to the European Union, often ran into trouble and were confronted with high fines in EU countries.

Following action by FEMA, FIVA and NMC, the European Commission has now confirmed to us that taking a motorcycle or a car with you from the United Kingdom to the continent should not be a problem.

It may sound strange for many of us, but a large number of British residents do not ride their bike to the continent, but put them in a van or a trailer, or hire a shipping company to transport the bike to the area where they want to ride with it. Also, owners of historic vehicles are used to transport their vehicle this way to take part to exhibitions, rally’s, etcetera.

For years this happened without too much trouble but then came the first of January 2021 (click here for an article we wrote on the subject in 2021). You may remember the Dutch customs officer, confiscating a ham-cheese sandwich from a lorry driver with the historic words “Sorry Sir, welcome to Brexit”. Well, we have not heard yet of motorcycles or historic vehicles being confiscated this way, but in some European countries it came quite close to that. In 2021 innocent owners of motorcycles and historic vehicles were confronted with high penalties and tax bills, to be paid immediately.

Alerted by reports from duped owners and transport companies, some of them even have ceased to exist because vehicle owners do not risk shipping their motorcycles or historic vehicles to the continent for temporary use there anymore, FEMA, the NMC (National Motorcyclists Council UK) and FIVA, the historic vehicle federation, decided to take joint action.

In December 2021 they wrote a letter to the European Commissioner Breton to request for a solution. The reply from the Commission arrived in May 2022 and is crystal clear: “Means of transports entering the EU temporarily and leaving back to the United Kingdom after a few weeks can be placed under temporary admission and declared to customs by the sole act of crossing the frontier.”

In case of use for exhibitions, other events or just for holidays, no customs formalities are needed at the moment of entry and exit. In other words: no customs declaration needs to be lodged, there are no safety and security and temporary storage requirements. And no value added tax (VAT) must be paid.

You can read or download the whole letter here. The European Commission advises to contact the national customs administrations in case you witness concrete cases of denial of those benefits, granted by EU law, at the borders of the European Union, and you believe such denial is contrary to the provisions mentioned in this article and the letter that was sent to us.

Our advice would be to copy the letter to your smartphone or print it and take it with you when going to the European continent if you take a vehicle with you for temporary use on the continent that you are not actually riding or driving when crossing the border.

Written by Dolf Willigers

Top photograph courtesy of NMC

This article is subject to FEMA’s copyright

FEMA (Federation of European Motorcyclists’ Associations) represents the European motorcyclists in, amongst other, the European Union institutions. Our members are national motorcyclists’ interest groups in the European Union, EFTA countries and the United Kingdom. We represent riders of powered two- and three-wheelers who use their vehicle for daily travelling and leisure riders. Our interests are, among others, safe motorcycling in a safe environment, freedom in choice of vehicle and movement.
FIVA (Fédération Internationale des Véhicules Anciens) is a worldwide non-profit organisation dedicated to the protection, preservation, and promotion of historic vehicles. Established in 1966, it is active in more than 80 countries, representing millions of historic vehicle enthusiasts around the globe. Since 2017, FIVA has been a partner of UNESCO with consultative status, representing world motoring heritage and related culture.
NMC (he National Motorcyclists Council) is a coalition of motorcycling representative organisations in the United Kingdom, which works together on commonly held positions on a range of public policy issues affecting motorcyclists. The NMC also researches issues to both inform the policy debate and support the individual work of its members. Several NMC members are also FEMA members.