Stormont undecided about implementing EU law requiring insurance for ride-on lawnmowers and mobility scooters – but NI Protocol not an issue

An EU law which the government says could add £50 a year to the cost of car insurance and which would require vehicles such as golf buggies, mobility scooters and quad bikes to have insurance is being dropped in Great Britain - but Stormont has not decided what to do.

The Vnuck law would mean that even a ride-on lawnmower on private land would require insurance
The Vnuck law would mean that even a ride-on lawnmower on private land would require insurance

The Vnuck law - named after a Slovenian man who was knocked off his ladder by a tractor trailer on a farm and who then secured a 2014 ruling by the European Court of Justice - extends to private land and means that even a ride-on lawnmower would be illegal without insurance.

The issue had been working its way through the government’s decision-making processes for years. In 2016 there had been a consultation on what to do, but no decision.

However, at the weekend Boris Johnson’s transport secretary Grant Shapps announced that the law would not apply to Great Britain.

In a press release Mr Shapps said that the law would have “hit the pockets of hard-working people up and down the country with an unnecessary hike in their car insurance” and added that “scrapping this rule would save the country billions of pounds and is part of a new and prosperous future for the UK outside the EU – a future in which we set our own rules and regulations.”

However, although Mr Shapps referred to the UK, the decision only applies to Great Britain, and it is not the case that Northern Ireland is able to “set our own rules and regulations” because many EU laws have to be followed by Northern Ireland, regardless of Stormont’s views.

The government said that British drivers would have faced an estimated £50 a year increase in motor insurance costs.

When asked by the News Letter if it was possible for Northern Ireland to disregard the EU law or whether under the NI Protocol the province needs to maintain alignment with the EU in this area, Mr Shapps’ department, the Department of Transport, did not answer.

It simply said that the matter was devolved to Stormont and that their officials “have engaged with their counterparts in Northern Ireland and will continue to do so as we progress the legislative change”.

Stormont’s Department of Infrastructure, however, said that the issue was not covered by the Northern Ireland Protocol – meaning that they can ignore the EU law if they choose to do so.

The department said it was aware of the Whitehall decision “and are currently looking at the preferred approach for the north”.

It added: “The NI Protocol does not require us to align with the EU requirements on motor insurance.”

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