Driving in the EU after Brexit

Just about the only thing anyone can say confidently about Brexit at the time of writing, is that it would be foolish for an individual to attempt to say anything confidently about Brexit! Even the question of whether or not the UK is leaving the EU doesn’t feel truly settled, yet. Nevertheless, we have to proceed on the assumption that we will be leaving – so how will that affect the many thousands, if not millions of UK drivers who take their cars to mainland Europe each year?

For the purposes of this article, we will concentrate on UK-based drivers with UK driving licences, who are visiting other EU countries for only a short time. UK nationals living overseas are advised to convert their UK licences to local ones as soon as possible – the UK government website has some useful advice on this, and you can also see the various country-specific posts on the subject on this very blog.

Will I Need an International Driving Permit?

In a nutshell, the situation is relatively straightforward: assuming the UK does exit from the European Union, then you are going to need an International Driving Permit (IDP) as well as your UK licence to drive legally, which UK drivers previously didn’t require.

However, nutshells are really only useful for keeping nuts in, and when it comes to bureaucracy, nothing’s ever straightforward! The big complication here is that there are several different types of IDP. These are known as the 1926, 1949 and 1968 IDP’s, and which one you’ll need depends on which country/countries you are visiting. Lichtenstein requires a 1926 IDP, while Spain, Iceland, Malta and Cyprus require a 1949 IDP. For all other EU countries, plus Norway and Switzerland, a 1968 IDP is the piece of paper you need.

To complicate matters further, however, the rules around IDP’s generally are changing at the end of March, and many countries (worldwide, not just in Europe) will no longer be accepting 1926 or 1949 IDP’s after 28 March. So not only is any long trans-European journey (if you’re driving to eastern Europe, for example) likely to require multiple types of IDP, the type of IDP required may change between you reading this blog today and making travel arrangements in a month’s time

You’re therefore strongly advised to check with the relevant transport/highways authorities in each of your destination countries before departure. For a rough guide to the current state of play, though, you can simply check the handy table on the gov.uk website.

Do note that one exception to all of the above is the Republic of Ireland. Ireland does not require visitors from non-EU states to obtain an IDP before they can drive, so you will be able to drive there without one even after Brexit.

How to Apply For an IDP

International Driving Permits are, thankfully, easy to obtain – there will be no need to undertake further tests. All you need to do is turn up at your local Post Office with the princely sum of £5.50 per IDP required, plus your current UK driving licence. Check out our blog on International Driving Permits for more information.

Other Paperwork

Making sure you have the correct IDP is the main hurdle UK drivers will face post-Brexit, but not the only one. You will also need to attach a ‘GB’ sticker to your vehicle, even if it already has EU plates with the GB symbol on them – though these can be purchased from driving associations or shops like Halfords for just £1-£3.

You will also need an insurance ‘green card’, which affirms that your UK insurance company will provide at least third-party cover in the event that you have an accident while driving in Europe. These were not previously required of UK drivers, as EU regulations covered all that. The good news is that they’re free – but do be aware that the process of getting one issued and sent out to you by your insurer can take up to four weeks, so it’s best to set the wheels in motion sooner rather than later. The MoneySavingExpert website has some great detailed advice on this, broken down by insurer.

Finally, with all things bureaucratic and legislative in something of a state of disarray at the moment, you’d be well advised to carry ALL paperwork regarding your vehicle’s ownership, registration and insurance status with you at all times when driving in Europe – just in case.

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