The EC Commission had threatened to ban the sale of machines over 100bhp, saying that powerful motorcycles were dangerous. This threatened a range of machines, including the British-made Triumph and Italian Ducatis. Though a derogation could have been agreed, this would have harmed the prospects of the bikes against Japanese competitors.
Bikers had organised a mock funeral for the big machines yesterday as internal market ministers met in Luxemburg.
Despite Britain being outnumbered in an area where it does not have a veto, it is rare for EC ministers to gang up on one country. There was no vote on the proposal, which will be raised again in three months.
Britain had been confident of support from the European Parliament and two ways out of the dilemma are being considered. The EC could raise the threshold for exempting small production runs. Alternatively, any legislation may be given a five-year delay with a review before implementation.
The attempt to legislate reflects existing national rules rather than a campaign to exterminate the machines. France has a limit, and Germany has reached agreement with BMW.