What does Brexit mean for British teams and riders?

Motorcycle News

UK teams and riders face new regulations for working in Europe, including carnets, limited stays and possible work visas and permits

Yamaha Racing Trucks

Crescent Yamaha’s trucks at Portimao. Entering the EU is now more complex than in the recent past

Yamaha Racing

This year British riders, teams and race staff go racing in Europe as non-EU members for the first time in decades, so will they face any challenges and, if so, what will they be?

There are only two major British teams competing in world championship racing, both of them in World Superbike: the factory BMW squad of Shaun Muir Racing and the factory Yamaha outfit of Crescent Racing.

SMR and Crescent are big enough to have the resources to work at addressing any issues created by Brexit, but these same issues will also affect smaller, less well-financed teams and riders who want to go racing or testing in Europe.

SMR and Crescent say costs will rise and both are considering moving their racing operations to Europe, to avoid the border complications of regularly taking staff, trucks, race bikes and equipment into and out of the EU. Crescent is already setting up a company in the Republic of Ireland to give itself an EU base.

Brexit ended freedom of movement for EU citizens in the UK and for British citizens in the EU, which consequently ended freedom of movement of goods and services, so there are three main issues: carnets, visas and the 90-days-in-180-days limit for working in the EU.

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Carnets allow for the temporary importation of goods into countries by guaranteeing that you won’t sell the goods while you’re there. A truck carnet must include every single item in the truck, from bikes and tyres to spare engines and paddock scooters, plus lists of individual tools and parts, nuts and bolts and so on.

Smaller teams and hobby racers taking bikes into Europe also need carnets. Road-registered bikes are exempt, but any van carrying multiple machines (for track-day events, for example) will be considered a commercial venture, so a carnet will be required.

Basic cost of a carnet is around £300, plus a refundable deposit of 40 per cent of the value of the van/truck and everything inside it, or a non-refundable insurance premium to cover the 40 per cent. Muir puts the cost of an annual EU carnet for a race truck at between £4000 and £5000. He takes four trucks onto the Continent, Crescent takes two.

Carnets are valid for 12 months and multiple trips, so long as the items listed don’t change significantly. For example, you will need a new carnet if the motorcycles in the consignment change or if the number of tyres in the consignment changes.

Exactly the same requirements will apply to riders and teams coming into the UK.

BMW World SBK, Philip Island

BMW celebrating at Phillip Island. Muir is centre, immediately in front of Syke’s S1000RR

BMW Motorrad

“Carnet fees and agency fees are quite painful,” says Paul Denning, boss of Crescent, which runs the Pata Yamaha operation with riders Toprak Razgatlıoğlu and Andrea Locatelli. “We are a well-established team and company so we can put time, money and human resources into doing that. Does all this make it unattractive for smaller teams running out of the UK on shoestring budgets in World Supersport 300 or 600? Yes. Does it make it impossible? Maybe. Either way it’s a massive pain.

“There’s not only a cost implication, there’s also a lot of hassle, because you need to make sure that every tyre, every item of rider clothing, every single bike component that goes out of the UK comes back in. Then there’s the uncertainty of getting where you want to be on time, because there’s always the chance you’ll get some jobsworth at customs who chooses to empty your 40-foot track full of factory bikes and wants to empty out your toolboxes to count the number of long-reach 14mm spanners you’ve got onboard.

“We’re told the estimate for an Italian work visa is anywhere between £1500 and £3000 per person. And that’s just one country”

“At the moment the people working in our office are fully focused on this, almost 24/7. Of course, it helps who you work with – we use DFDS ferries and they’ve been super-helpful with paperwork and documentation.”

Denning is working alongside UK-based Formula 1 car teams who are going through the same processes, on a much larger scale. Some F1 teams have already sent vans and trucks into the EU to detect potential problems before the racing season starts. Some of these vehicles have spent a day or two waiting to cross the channel. SMR has done its own experiments.

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“We’ve already had problems with one van, going into France,” says Shaun Muir, owner of SMR, which runs the BMW Motorrad team, with Michael van der Mark and Tom Sykes.

“The procedure is not bad, if you get your paperwork right, but there’s no doubt it’s a royal pain, especially if you get a customs guy in a bad mood, who isn’t playing ball. So we are looking at travelling four days earlier than usual, just to make sure we’re get to the race or the test in time.”

Getting people into Europe is the next issue. There is currently a lot of confusion regarding the status of UK race staff that need to make work visits in EU states, due to glaring ambiguities in official documents. Will British riders and team staff need work visas and permits for each EU country they visit? No one seems 100 per cent sure.

“Visas are a whole other nightmare,” adds Denning. “The real problem is that for every regulation there seems to be something else that contradicts that regulation. Some people say we don’t need visas or work permits, others say we do. If we have to go down that road we’re told the estimate for an all-singing, all-dancing Italian work visa is anywhere between £1500 and £3000 per person. And that’s just one country.”

Pata Yamaha

Pata Yamaha team boss Denning discusses truck carnets with star rider Razgatlıoğlu. Possibly

worldsbk.com

This is why Crescent and some Formula 1 teams have turned to immigration and visa experts, like Newland Chase, which believes that work visas and permits will be necessary in some EU countries for staff to be fully regulations compliant.

“Like musicians, there is no provision in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement between the UK and EU to facilitate the work of sportsmen/women,” says Jason Rogers, an attorney specializing in global immigration at Newland Chase, which is experiencing a large increase in business since Britain left the EU. “As such the requirements need to be verified on a country-by-country basis.

“A work visa is typically issued at the diplomatic post of the destination country. For example, a racing driver who is due to participate in a race in Italy but resides in the UK may need to apply for a work visa at the Italian Consulate in the UK. A work permit is usually issued by the immigration authorities in the destination country. In the above example, the work permit would be issued by the immigration authorities in Italy.

“However, it is also possible that the immigration officers at the airport or port of entry may issue the work visa when the individual arrives at the airport or port of entry. It is also possible that some countries require both a work permit and a work visa in order for the individual to be fully compliant under the immigration rules and regulations.”

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It does indeed seem that visa requirements will vary from country to country. For example, the German Embassy states that “professional athletes and paid staff of the participating teams” are among those UK nationals who are exempt from requiring visas for short working visits. On the other hand the situation with other EU countries seems less clear.

Denning is looking at all options. For now, he hopes that arming his staff with letters from MotoGP/WSB rights-holder Dorna and the FIM, requesting them freedom of passage, will help at border control. The issue here is how individual border staff interpret the multitude of different regulations.

What about potential Brexit advantages for British racers and teams wanting to race in Europe? “There are none – only clear disadvantages”

“At the moment we’re hanging our hopes on these letters,” he says. “But there’s definitely a lot of uncertainty: the letters may work with some border police, but then you come up against different border staff and suddenly you’ve got no mechanics to build the bikes on Wednesday or Thursday.”

The final issue is the 90-days-in-180 days limit for UK staff working in Europe.

“This is the biggest problem we have to deal with,” adds Muir. “With the races and testing we’ve got planned so far we’re already at 108 days.”

Muir and Denning are now considering moving their teams into Europe, because Brexit cost implications for contesting the WSB championship are estimated at between £50,000 and £100,000 this year.

SMR’s BMW WSB trucks

SMR’s four BMW WSB trucks – containing bikes and everything the team needs – on their way to the

Continent

“I’d already considered moving before Brexit, because it makes sense for logistical reasons and for centralising everything,” says Muir. “Now it’s borderline whether I do or not. But even moving into Europe won’t solve the 90-day problem. I’m not going to get rid of my British staff and replace them with European staff, so we would end up having to deal with the EU settlement ruling. I already do that with two French guys at my base – they’ve got five-year settlement agreements in the UK, so all we’d have to do is do the reverse equivalent if we decided to move to Europe.”

Denning is thinking along similar lines. “We are seriously looking at moving our racing company to Italy, if things don’t change for the better with regards to flexibility,” he says. “It’s already very likely we will re-register our trucks in Italy, which is another business hit for the UK because the trucks will no longer be serviced and refurbished here. Multiply that many hundreds of times and it becomes quite a big deal economically.”

Muir has already had meetings with MPs – his local MP Simon Clark and Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for culture, media and sport – in the hope of improving the situation.

“They recognise there’s a problem, so now it’s with them, let’s see what happens,” he says.

Denning isn’t confident much can be done to make an immediate difference, because any relaxation of regulations covering people and goods entering the EU would have to be reciprocated by the British government for people and goods entering the UK.

“We’re not expecting anything to get easier in the short term,” he says.

Obviously racers and race teams currently face another major problem: the Covid-19 pandemic.

“There’s a huge additional element where Brexit has become intertwined with Covid issues,” Denning adds. “But if it wasn’t for Brexit those issues would be a lot easier to deal with.

“For example, we may have to stay in Europe if Spain or another country goes into the red zone for re-entry into the UK, which may take us over the 90 days we’re allowed in the Schengen area. And if we have to stay there for weeks we’re thinking of taking pushbikes with us, but they’re not on our carnet, so do we start again or do you risk it and maybe customs end up finding them?”

What about potential Brexit advantages for British racers and teams wanting to race in Europe?

“There are none – only clear disadvantages,” concludes Denning. “It’s shockingly challenging – a huge amount of negative energy and finance for nothing.”

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