Driving in Europe after Brexit: What you need to know

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Author: | Updated: 03 Sep 2019 13:59

Brexit has the potential to impact motorists planning to drive abroad in several ways. Will driving licences still be valid in the case of a ‘no-deal’ scenario? How will insurance policies be affected? Will you need an international driving permit?

Driving in Europe after Brexit

We’ve been checking out exactly what could change and when…

Will my licence still be valid if there’s no deal?

The UK is set to leave the EU on 31 October 2019 – with or without a deal. If we reach a ‘cliff edge’ scenario and no deal or transition period is agreed, things are set to change for Brits driving abroad.

UK driving licence

Currently, UK driving licences are valid in all EU countries and, as long as you hold a UK licence, you can drive for both work and leisure in any country without additional documentation.

However, if no deal has been reached by 31 October, it’s likely your licence alone will not be enough. If this is the case, the Department for Transport advises that you should carry an International Driving Permit (IDP) as well as your photocard licence.

What is an international driving permit and where can I get one?

An IDP is essentially a translation of your own driving licence that allows foreign authorities to confirm your identity. Two types are available.

One type is governed by the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic and the other by the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic.

The 1949 convention IDP lasts for 12 months. After 28 March 2019 in the EU, a UK issued 1949 IDP would be recognised in Ireland, Spain, Malta and Cyprus. The 1968 convention IDP is valid for three years, or for however long your driving licence is valid if it falls within the three years.

Model car European map

The 1968 convention will come into force for the UK on 28 March 2019. After this date, a UK issued 1968 convention IDP would be recognised in all other EU countries, plus Norway and Switzerland.

It’s worth remembering you’ll need to carry your photocard licence as well as an IDP, and that both will be required if you’re planning on hiring a vehicle in an EU country. Both types of IDP cost £5.50 and are obtainable at 2,500 post offices across the country. You can find out more information on the Post Office website.

What about insurance?

49933044 - sad woman driver in car

In addition to the IDP, in the event that there is no EU Exit deal and the European Commission does not make a decision ensuring that UK registered vehicles will not be checked for proof of insurance, drivers of UK registered vehicles will need to carry a motor insurance Green Card when driving in the EU and EEA.

Current EU law makes it possible to drive around Europe for up to 90 days provided you have your UK insurance documentation with you. The green card is essentially another insurance certificate that essentially translates your insurance into foreign languages. For it to be legally binding, it must be printed on green paper.

You’ll be able to obtain one by contacting your insurance company. A green card must also have at least 15 days’ cover on it before you enter EU countries.

What about driving in Ireland?

The government has advised that all UK-registered vehicles driving in Ireland will require GB stickers after Brexit.

New advice says that motorists need to display the sticker in all EU countries after the UK’s departure from the bloc, even if the number plate also displays a GB logo.

While motorists who from drive Northern Ireland to the Republic are advised to display a GB sticker current, the rule has never been widely enforced. The sticker – a white oval containing the letters GB – is displayed at the rear of the vehicle.

It’s possible that not displaying a GB sticker could invalidate motor insurance, so the Association of British Insurers have urged motorists to follow the new advice.

What about my lease car?

Aside from the potential requirement to carry an IDP and green card, other rules haven’t changed. That means you’ll be required to carry your V5 document with you. For lease customers, that means you’ll need to request a VE103 ‘Vehicle on Hire’ form from the leasing company because they will be the legal owner of the vehicle.

It’s important that you remember to do this, because this form is the only legal alternative to a V5 document. However, this has always been the case and won’t be affected by potential no-deal scenarios.

Will passports still work?

Passport photo

Even if the UK leaves without a deal on 31 Octover, passports should be unaffected. However, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has advised that from September 2018, any carried over months from an early renewal will not count. In the past, you were able to carry up to nine months over.

This means that those with carried-over months need to be sure they have at least 15 months left to travel – that includes the new six-month minimum, plus any extra months. The government has a calculator that will tell you whether you need to renew it.

Anything else to consider?

If you’re a British expat living in the EU, the Department for Transport (DfT) says UK licences should be exchanged for local EU licences before 31 October 2019. This is because expats may have to take a local driving test in their country of residence if there is a no deal. Current EU law states that UK driving licences can be swapped for European ones without taking a test, but that could change if there’s no deal.

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