British Blue badge holders can no longer use their permits at some European countries after the EU transition period ended on 31 December 2020 as a result of Brexit.
The plan was for ministers to negotiate deals with EU countries so Brits could use their badges at holiday destinations such as France, Italy, Spain, Greece and Portugal, but to date no deals have been made.
European countries are hesitant to allow UK blue badge holders to use permits in their country because they say it is difficult for traffic wardens to decide which badges are legit as they have a different design to ones handed out in the EU.
The Covid-19 pandemic has put travelling laws as a low priority, hence why ministers are yet to address the issue, but campaigners argue the government has let disabled people down.
The government is recommending people with physical disabilities planning a trip abroad to check with embassies of the destination they wish to visit to check if their badge will be valid in their country.
Transport minister Chris Heaton-Harris has said the government was continuing “to engage in discussions with a number of countries” about the situation and “remains committed to confirming the status of UK issued blue badges for visiting motorists”.
When the Brexit deal went through the EU flag was removed from the British blue badge design which meant the permit was no longer recognised in European countries.
Fazilet Hadi, head of policy at Disability Rights UK, told The Independent: “For many disabled people, a car with a blue badge is the only option for being able to leave home. The Blue Badge enables visits to family and friends, trips to shops, restaurants and cinemas, and visits to the doctor or hospital.”
She said it was “essential that the government ensures that blue badges are recognised across Europe to ensure that disabled people enjoy the same opportunities to travel”.
Baroness Sal Brinton, the Liberal Democrats’ health spokesperson [who uses a wheelchair herself] in the House of Lords, said: “It is deeply disappointing that the government appear to have let this issue drop down their agenda.
“Disabled people already face a huge wave of difficulties others do not when trying to travel, either for work or for a holiday and this is yet another barrier for them.”
She added: “By failing to secure a reciprocal deal on blue badge use, the Conservatives are letting disabled people down. The UK government should renew their focus – reaching an agreement is clearly in everyone's interest.”
Countries yet to decide if they will accept UK blue badges include Slovenia, Romania, Luxembourg, Bulgaria and Lithuania.
A spokesperson for the Department for Transport said: “It has always been the case that disabled drivers should check the local rules in the country they are travelling in before using a disabled parking card abroad.
“Negotiations on blue badge recognition are ongoing between the UK and individual EU states, and motorists can always contact their embassy for advice or assistance if they need it.”
More than 40 million UK visitors travelled to the missing countries in 2019 before the pandemic hit.
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