Transport Minister Shane Ross was unable to say if motorists who cross the Border without a special ‘green card’ as proof of insurance cover will be prosecuted.
Mr Ross came under pressure to explain what actions he has taken to avoid the need for the cards in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
It came as he appeared before the Oireachtas Transport Committee to be quizzed on his department’s Brexit preparations.
The Motor Insurers’ Bureau of Ireland announced last month that the industry is prepared to issue green cards if necessary.
Louth Fine Gael TD Fergus O’Dowd raised the issue and concerns at its impact on drivers in the Border area.
Mr Ross said that motorists travelling between the UK and Ireland will require a green card in the event of a crash-out Brexit. He said the insurance industry is planning to issue 400,000 cards at some point in March and is planning a public information campaign. He said this was “prudent” and while no one wants the cards to be issued, the industry has to be prepared.
Mr Ross confirmed the cards would be required by motorists the day after Brexit is due to happen on March 29 if there is no deal.
Another Louth TD, Imelda Munster, said 34,000 people take cross-Border journeys every day and questioned when they would get the cards and if they would have to pay for them.
Mr Ross said that would be up to the insurance companies.
Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said some countries seize motorists’ cars if they don’t have green cards and that there could be “fairly serious implications”.
Mr Ross said: “It’s not clear yet whether people will be prosecuted or not. What we do know is it’s going to be required.”
Mr O’Dowd asked Mr Ross if the Government or his department would seek a derogation from the requirement for green cards. He said it would make sense given the existing Common Travel Area (CTA) with the UK and would only bring about “increased bureaucracy”.
Ms Munster asked Mr Ross if he has intervened in the issue to “find some form of dispensation so that come seven weeks’ time we’re not in that predicament”.
Mr Ross said he has intervened and that there is an option under EU law to set a date for when carrying a green card would not be necessary.
He said the European Commission has not yet agreed to set a date but said the Government had “been pushing them to do that”.
Mr Ross also briefed TDs on bilateral deals that may have to be struck with the UK to keep cross-Border train and bus services running.
On the issue of the so-called land-bridge route for hauliers to the Continent through Britain, Mr Ross said there is existing capacity on direct sailings between Ireland and Europe as a potential alternative route for trade if needed.
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