Driving in Europe after Brexit: how leaving the EU will affect UK driving licence holders

Driving in Europe after Brexit: how leaving the EU will affect UK driving licence holders
Driving in Europe after Brexit: how leaving the EU will affect UK driving licence holders

Brexit is coming and while the details are still being thrashed out we know for sure that it will have significant implications for many aspects of our lives.

Among the things it will affect is driving on the continent, whether it’s as part of a holiday or for work.

Currently, British and Northern Irish drivers are free to drive in Europe without any restrictions or requirement for any paperwork beyond their licence and insurance. However, post-Brexit that will change.

Here’s what you need to know about driving in Europe after Brexit.

Licences and international driving permits

Currently, there is a mutual recognition of driving licences between the UK and the EEA (that’s the EU plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) which means you don’t need any further supporting documentation to be allowed to drive in other countries.

However, post-Brexit, this situation will change and depending on the country you intend to visit and the length of your stay you may need additional paperwork in the form of an international driving permit.

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UK driving licence
Depending on the country and length of visit you may need to carry an international driving permit as well as your licence (Photo: Shutterstock)

There are three types of IDPs, each only valid in certain European countries.

  • 1949 Convention IDP: This is for holders of UK and Northern Irish licences wishing to drive in Andorra; Cyprus; Iceland; the Republic of Ireland; Malta and Spain
  • 1968 Convention IDP: People visiting any other EU country, or Norway or Switzerland will require this type of permit
  • 1926 Convention: Formerly for those travelling to Liechtenstein

Some countries will continue to accept a UK or Northern Irish photocard driving licence without an IDP while others will impose certain conditions. Rules also vary if you only have a paper licence.

Those that will not require an IDP are: Croatia (different rules apply to category C and D licences); Estonia; Finland; Greece; Latvia; Liechtenstein; Netherlands; Romania; Slovakia; Switzerland.

Most other countries will allow UK drivers to drive without an IDP as long as their visit does not exceed a set length of time. This varies between one and 12 months, depending on the country, a full list of restrictions can be found here.

However, a handful of countries will require motorists to have an IDP for visits of any length. These are Andorra; Cyprus; France; Italy; Monaco.

The permits are only available from Post Offices. They cost £5.50 and are valid for between one and three years, depending on the type required.

In some cases travellers may need more than one IDP. For example, somebody driving through France and then on to Spain will need both a 1968 and a 1949 IDP.

If you live in an EU or EAA country you will need to exchange your UK/NI licence for a local licence. Some countries will allow a straight exchange while others will require you to sit a local driving test or provide a certificate of medical fitness. Full details of the different conditions can be found here.

Insurance

Britain is currently part of a Green-Card-free circulation zone with all the countries within the European Economic Area (EEA) as well as Andorra, Serbia and Switzerland. This means all UK drivers with car insurance are automatically covered to drive there.

After Brexit, the UK will cease to be part of this zone and while you will not need any additional insurance you will have to carry a green card as proof of cover.

Claiming after an accident could become more complicated post-Brexit (Photo: Shutterstock)

Green cards can be obtained from your insurer. Currently there is no charge for this but the Government has warned some insurers could start asking for a fee. You should allow a month’s notice before your trip when applying for one.

If you’re towing a trailer or caravan you will need separate green cards for the towing vehicle and the trailer/caravan.

You may also need two green cards if your insurance policy renews during your trip.

Accidents

If you are involved in a crash or road incident after Brexit the Government says you may need to bring a claim against either the driver or the insurer of the vehicle in the EU or EEA country where the accident happened, rather than going through your UK insurer. This may involve bringing the claim in the local language.

In the event of an accident caused by an uninsured or an untraced driver, UK residents may not receive compensation. This will vary from country to country.

Number plates and national identifiers

Under international conventions, you should already display a GB sign on your car when driving outside of the UK.

This can appear as a sticker or a GB sign on your number plate.

After Brexit, if your vehicle has a “Euro-plate” displaying both the EU flag and a GB sign you will also need a GB sticker.

You will not need a GB sticker if you replace a Euro-plate with a number plate that features the GB sign without the EU flag.

If you have a Euro plate on your car you will also need to display a GB sticker when driving in Europe (Image: Shutterstock)

This article first appeared on the Edinburgh Evening News

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