UK motorsport could be brought to a grinding halt, Conservative MEP for the West Midlands Dan Dalton warned on Thursday (17th January), unless the European Parliament agrees to changes in a planned overhaul of the EU’s motor insurance rules.
A parliamentary committee of MEPs will decide on Tuesday whether to back Dan’s amendment that would grant motorsport an exemption under a piece of legislation designed to better protect victims of motor accidents.
“It is simply too close to call which way the vote will go at this stage,” said Dalton. “Many MEPs on the left oppose my suggestions, but I will fighting to convince my colleagues that this is the right thing to do.”
The European Commission published its proposal to revise the EU’s motor insurance rules after a 2014 ruling by judges in Luxembourg that off-road vehicles should have unlimited third party liability insurance, including on private land.
Conservative MEPs say the draft law from the European Commission is so vague that it could effectively shut down British motorsport, but Dan’s amendment includes the phrase “in traffic” to mitigate the impact of the EU executive’s proposal.
"I met with members of the insurance industry at a recent motorsport fair in Birmingham. They told me that most insurers would be unwilling to underwrite this sort of risk,” Dalton said. “For the grassroots, that would slam the brakes on the next Lewis Hamilton or Jenson Button emerging."
If the law takes effect before Brexit, or during the planned two-year transition phase, then it will apply in the UK.
The motorsport industry is worth more than nine billion pounds to the British economy. Motorsport Valley, which stretches from the West Midlands to East Anglia, employs more than 40,000 people. Several teams, circuits and other companies involved in motorsport have been contacting Dan to warn that jobs could be at stake if the Commission's proposal goes through unchanged.
“My father used to volunteer as a marshal at events up and down the UK, including the British Grand Prix. I know that motorsport is a way of life for many people in this country,” Dalton added.
All MEPs are expected to vote on the proposals when the European Parliament meets in Strasbourg in February. Tuesday’s vote is key, however, as the full parliament generally follows the line taken at committee stage.