Europe will still be there, Alpine passes will not morph into six-lane motorways, the Pyrenees will not become less pointy and the French will remain extremely courteous towards bikers. The most immediate change is how far your pound will go. In the post-referendum fallout the value of the pound dropped alarmingly. Against the US dollar it hit its lowest value since 1985 and lost over 10% of its value against the Euro. If it doesn’t recover, which most financial analysts seem to think it won’t in the short or medium term, it means anything you pay for in US dollars or euros is going to cost you at least 10% more. The rise in the cost of hotels, campsites and fuel will not be the only thing – the price of your bike and your kit may go up.
And don’t think buying British is the solution. Triumph makes great bikes, but it makes them here in the UK, in Thailand and in Brazil. They use Nissin brakes and WP suspension. Every manufacturer is international these days and big exchange rate variations have the potential for a big impact. They will all have ‘hedged’ their currency, e.g. bought it early to protect against these changes, but this can’t last forever.
Tour operators will also feel the squeeze. The more professional companies are bonded to protect customers in the event of financial failure – the costs of these bonds are likely to rise, partly because of the financial dip following Brexit and partly because companies are at greater risk of failure with poor exchange rates and an uncertain future.
The upside is that your used RT or Trophy might now look very cheap to a German of French buyer as he will get a lot of pounds for his euro. Of course our European neighbours can buy, adapt and register the bike in their home country because the manufacturers all work to a single EU standard. In the future even this could change? Anyone remember when French headlights had to be yellow? We had front number plates on bikes but France and Germany didn’t? The Swiss 100bhp limit?
Immigration was a massive issue during the referendum, and no matter how the future unfolds any government will have to be seen to do something to address it. This is likely to mean the UK will have a ‘proper’ border with Europe. Holiday makers are unlikely to see much, if any change, but the biggest might be the retreat of the UK and French border controls at the Eurotunnel to their respective countries, meaning double queues and no swift exit from the train onto the road. There is the potential for our European neighbours to require some form of visa, but this shouldn’t be prohibitive; we want their tourists to come here as much as they want ours to go there, so the likelihood is a reciprocal deal allowing relatively free movement. The land border between Northern Ireland and Eire could be a whole other issue.
The UK opted out of the EU agreement that licence endorsements transfer from one EU country to another. Now we have opted out of the EU it seems even more unlikely that this would ever affect us. Maybe we’ll be able to unwind the existing licence process? The Euro 4 could go as well, or at least we could not adopt Euro 5 when this comes? However, I doubt any of this will happen. A UK government is not going to unwind legislation it believes enhances safety or is good for the environment. Manufacturers are not going to make bikes with more power but worse emissions just for one small market.
Little will change and if it does it will be slow and laborious. We may avoid some future EU legislative changes but even this seems unlikely. The UK campaigning bodies have proven singularly ineffective so far, even when working in partnership with their EU partners. Standing alone and making an isolated argument is unlikely to improve their scoresheet.
What could have a massive impact is France, Austria or one of the other mainland European countries following Brexit with ‘Fransortie’ or ‘Austfahrt’. Dumping the euro, reintroducing the franc and the schilling, building land borders, erecting fences, reintroducing passport checks and customs procedures could all take us back 40 years. If even one other country follows the UK through the out door, then there is the serious potential for the whole EU tent to be blown away in a whirlwind of exits and isolationism.
Still, the silver lining is that you can always flog your KTM to an Austrian guy for top money, buy a Triumph and go and ride the fantastic roads in the Highlands of Scotland without any of theses worries. Oh no, actually there might be a problem with this plan as well. Anybody want to quote for rebuilding Hadrian’s Wall?