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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/road-haulage-and-driving-in-the-eu-post-brexit/ratifying-the-1968-vienna-convention
As part of our preparations for exiting the EU, we intend to ratify the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic.
The UK is broadly aligned with the terms of the 1968 Convention, though a notable area of divergence is in the area of trailer registration. Unlike most of mainland Europe, the UK does not currently mandate the registration of trailers. The bill provides the power to establish a formal trailer registration scheme to enable UK trailer owners to register in line with the standards outlined in the 1968 Convention.
Crucially, ratification will allow us to:
- shape the Convention’s future direction
- promote UK interests relating to road traffic and automated vehicles
- propose and vote on amendments
1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic
The 1968 Vienna Convention is a UN international treaty designed to facilitate international road traffic and increase road safety by establishing uniform traffic rules.
It has been signed and ratified by 75 countries. The UK signed the Convention in 1968, but is yet to ratify it. Ratification will guarantee continued access for UK driving licence holders to the EU after we depart, provided the driver holds a valid International Driving Permit (IDP) document.
IDPs are documents to facilitate domestic driving licence recognition, when travelling in another country (but not when resident). Ratifying will also guarantee the recognition of UK registered vehicles travelling outside the UK.
2. Trailer registration
In the Haulage Permits and Trailer Registration Bill, we are introducing powers to establish a mandatory registration scheme for trailers travelling internationally. This will ensure UK operators driving on the continent can comply with the requirements of those EU countries which require the registration of trailers travelling on their roads.
We intend to require the registration of commercial trailers over 750kg and non-commercial trailers over 3500kg that enter international traffic. Small, private use trailers such as caravans and horse trailers would not fall within the scope of mandatory registration but may be registered voluntarily.
The mandatory scope of trailer registration will apply solely to those trailers travelling internationally for both commercial trailers and larger non-commercial trailers, but only travelling to countries who have ratified the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic. Trailers travelling to the Republic of Ireland, Spain, Cyprus and Malta will not be required to register. Trailers from Northern Ireland will thus only need to register should they be travelling to continental Europe
3. International driving permits
By ratifying the Convention, the UK will be able to issue 1968-format IDPs in accordance with the Convention. These are physical documents which accompany your UK driving licence and ensure the recognition of your entitlement to drive in other states party to the 1968 Convention. Ratification will allow us to issue IDPs allowing UK motorists to drive in all EU member states whatever the outcome of negotiations with the EU.
Some countries, such as the Republic of Ireland and Spain, are party to the earlier 1949 Geneva Convention and not the 1968 Convention. The UK is already party to the 1949 Convention and 1949-format IDPs will remain valid for driving in these countries.
By ratifying the Convention, the UK will therefore ensure that drivers can continue to travel as they do now in EU member states post-Exit.
4. Compliance and reservations
The UK is overwhelmingly compliant with the provisions of the Convention, through legislation or the guidance communicated through the Highway Code. However, we intend to reserve or declare with respect to certain articles in the Convention that are anachronistic, for instance, making a declaration that we intend to treat mopeds as motorcycles or introducing a ‘jaywalking offence’, or laws specifying the direction in which vehicles may be parked. When a state reserves against a provision of a treaty it is asserting that it does not intend to be bound by that particular provision. These reservations mean that a small number of provisions in the Convention will have no legal effect upon the UK domestically.
5. Automated vehicles
Ratifying the 1968 Vienna Convention will not impact on the UK’s ability to remain at the very forefront of automated vehicle development, testing and use. Like many other countries who have ratified one or both conventions, we believe that neither convention prohibits the testing or use of automated vehicles. Both conventions require a driver to be able to control their vehicle. Neither says that a driver must be in their vehicle, nor defines the word ‘control’. So, a driver, even if not in the vehicle, could control it by choosing a destination and route, and letting the automated vehicle to steer, accelerate, and brake.
Ratifying will give us more say on future international rules and guidance, to help smooth cross-border road travel, create an increasingly global market for automated vehicles, maintaining the UK’s position as a leader in the development, testing and use of the new technology of automated vehicles.