As Theresa May’s new government gets to grips with Britain’s exit from the European Union, Helen Dolphin reports on how disabled motorists are likely to be affected.
The UK has voted to leave the European Union (EU), which we have been a part of in some form since 1973. It’s not clear what the implications will be for disabled people and there is a lot of speculation. But it is possible to look at how things might change for disabled motorists post-Brexit.
The ‘Disabled persons parking scheme’ has been in place since the 1970s and, as some will recall, it was originally the Orange Badge Scheme. In 1998 the UK government implemented the European Commission’s recommendation for a standard European parking badge for disabled people. This changed the badge from orange to blue and means our badge is now similar in colour, wording, size and shape to other badges issued across Europe. Currently UK badge holders can use their badge in other European countries and badge holders from other European countries can use their badges here. The question therefore is whether this agreement will continue or will leaving the EU reduce disabled people’s freedom to park in other countries?
As well as all the EU member states, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein also issue the ‘European Model Parking Card’ and their disabled citizens enjoy the same privileges when using the badge in other EU states. I would therefore hope that a similar agreement could be negotiated for UK Blue Badge holders. Although much will rest on subsequent negotiations it seems likely that some reciprocal agreement will be reached as it is in the best interest of all EU disabled citizens to be able to continue to use their Blue Badges in the UK.
Motability is a scheme that enables disabled people to lease a new car, scooter or powered wheelchair, using their Government-funded mobility allowance. Currently about one third of people receiving a qualifying benefit use the scheme and Motability buys around 10% of all new cars sold in the UK. Due to its buying power Motability is able to secure extremely good deals for their customers and there are hundreds of cars available through the scheme which require no advance payment.
Current speculation is that the car market could be affected by Brexit and it is thought that restrictions on trade with the remaining EU members could lead to more expensive vehicles for UK motorists. This could potentially mean fewer cars available with no advance payment. Motability also has to shift a huge number of used cars every week and should the UK go into a recession then this too could have adverse effects. Rupert Pontin, valuation director at Glass’s guide, which advises on the state of the car industry, has said that the UK should expect a “period of instability for new and used car sales”.
A spokesman from Motability said: “The Motability scheme holds adequate cash and capital to ensure that it can withstand market and economic volatility and as such we will help cushion customers from any immediate financial impact. EU exit negotiations are expected to take at least two years. In the meantime, we recommend that customers continue to enjoy the benefits of the scheme and we will update customers on any developments as soon as we have more information.”
It therefore seems that for the time being at least Motability customers should not be adversely affected by Brexit even if there is instability in the new and used car market.
Many disabled people have to rely on use of a car especially in areas where public transport is still inaccessible or infrequent. Therefore the price of fuel is a concern to many disabled motorists. During the immediate aftermath of the Referendum result, the value of the pound fell by more than 10%. Since crude oil is traded in dollars if sterling is weak the price we pay for petrol at the pumps goes up. However, even if the value of the pound fell by 20% this would only add £2 to the cost of filling up an average 55-litre petrol car, so although not good it may not be as bad as some people expected.
But it is not just the fall in the pound that may increase fuel prices; there are concerns that Britain may be charged a higher price for oil than it did when it was part of the EU, particularly by Russia. In addition if the economy goes into recession the Treasury may look to increase revenue and this may mean they put extra duty on the price of a litre of fuel.
It is likely to take at least two years for the UK to exit the EU, meaning any new changes, particularly to Blue Badges are unlikely to appear before the middle of 2018 or 2019.