Driving after Brexit: What you need to know

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As a member of the European Union (EU), UK driving licences could be used to drive in countries in the European Economic Area (EEA) – that means EU member states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

When the UK left the EU on 31 January it entered a transition period during which pretty much everything will stay the same until the end of the year. UK licences will still be valid for visiting EEA countries during transition.

What happens next will depend on negotiations on the future relationship between the UK and the EU.

There will be different arrangements in place for each country – specific advice for each country is available from the government.

Some countries will require drivers to have an International Driving Permit (IDP), especially for longer visits, which may be bought at Post Offices for £5.50. You may also need to carry your UK driving licence – some countries have stricter rules if you only have a paper licence. DVLA says more than three million people in Britain only have a paper licence, not a photocard.

There are two different types of IDP you might need in Europe, known as the 1949 and 1968 IDPs – the numbers refer to the dates of the conventions on road traffic that established them.

  • The 1949 permit covers any visits to Cyprus and Andorra and longer trips to Ireland, Spain, Iceland, and Malta.
  • The 1968 permit covers driving in all other EU countries that require IDPs, plus Norway and Switzerland

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Only France, Italy and Cyprus require drivers to have an IDP for a short visit.

The majority of countries, such as Germany and Spain, only need you to have an IDP once you have been driving in the country for a set period – three, six or 12 months.

And a few countries such as the Netherlands and Switzerland will not require an IDP at all.

It’s also possible that the type of IDP you need to drive in countries outside Europe will change once the UK is no longer a member of the EU. You can find the full list of which IDPs you need worldwide on this page.

Another driving test?

IDPs apply only for visiting other countries. If you are a UK licence-holder living in another EU country, then you may need to exchange your UK licence for a licence issued by an EU country.

The government has issued specific advice for each country. In some countries, if you wait until after the end of the transition period, you may need to take another driving test.

EU and EEA licenses will continue to be accepted in the UK for visitors and residents.

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Your UK insurance is still valid for visiting the EEA during the transition period.

It is possible that in 2021, after the transition period is due to end, you may be legally required to get a Green Card from your insurer to prove your car is covered if you are driving in Europe. This will depend on what is agreed in negotiations between the UK and the EU on the future relationship.

The Green Card is only proof of a minimum level of third-party cover – it will not necessarily match the level of cover that you pay for in the UK. You would have to check with your insurer to find out what level of cover you would get.

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The government recommends that you have a GB sticker on your car, even if you also have a GB symbol on your number plate.

You’ll need to carry your V5C log book with you if you own the car. If it is a car you have hired or leased then you will need to get a VE103 form to show you have permission to take it out of the UK.

Perhaps most inconveniently, if you are involved in a road traffic accident in an EEA country after the end of the transition period, then you may need to make a claim against the responsible driver or their insurer in the country where the accident happened.

And that could involve bringing the claim in the local language.

Again, this will depend on the outcome of negotiations on the UK’s future relationship with the EU.

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