Brexit: everything you need to know about driving in the EU

Published 31 January 2020

As the UK leaves the European Union, the laws around driving are set to change. The important thing to bear in mind is that we're now entering a transition period, meaning you don't have to panic: everything will stay the same until at least the end of 2020.

Arrangements from 1 January 2021 are open to negotiation, so it's difficult to say exactly what will happen next year. This is what we know so far.

Do I need an International Driving Permit?

As of 2021, holders of UK licences driving in EU countries may need an International Driving Permit (IDP).

There are three IDPs available:

1949 IDP covering Ireland, Iceland, Spain, Malta and Cyprus

1968 IDP covering all other EU countries as well as Norway and Switzerland

1926 IDP covering Liechtenstein

These can be purchased from selected Post Office branches at a cost of £5.50 each. You'll need to take a passport photo and your current, valid photo card driving licence. Although IDPs used to be available via mail order, this service was stopped earlier in the year.

It's worth noting that a 1926 or 1949 permit only lasts 12 months, so you'll need to renew it in a year's time. A 1968 permit lasts for three years or until your UK driving licence expires, whichever comes first.

Some EU countries are allowing an exemption for the IDP, so long as the driver can show a photocard licence. Some other EU nations, however, are stating that UK drivers will not need one if their visit is shorter than one month.

For the full list of IDP requirements please see the Government’s information site, here.

What about car insurance?

If you're planning on taking a vehicle to an EU country, you'll need to gain proof of insurance known as a Green Card. Most insurance companies are happy to provide this, although some will charge an admin fee.

It's worth applying for a Green Card at least a month in advance of your trip to make sure it arrives in time. The document covers the vehicle rather than the driver, so you'll need just one Green Card per car. Motorists in Ireland are likely to be affected - those in Northern Ireland planning to cross the border into the Republic will need a Green Card too.

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Check the terms and conditions of your insurance - a Green Card might not provide the same level of cover as your UK policy. Some providers will provide fully-comprehensive insurance in the UK, but only third-party cover abroad. This means you could be left out of pocket in an accident.

If you're towing, you'll need a separate Green Card for the trailer or caravan. Some countries require separate trailer insurance.

What other documents do I need for travelling abroad?

If you are taking your vehicle to the EU for less than 12 months, you should have the vehicle V5C (commonly known as the logbook) or VE103 to show you’re allowed to use your hired or leased vehicle abroad.

The Government recommends that UK drivers should display a GB sticker on the rear of your vehicle, even if you currently have a number plate which includes the GB identifier.

I'm moving abroad. What do I need to do?

If you're planning on living in an EU country rather than just visiting, the rules are slightly different.

You must exchange your UK driving licence for a local EU licence. This doesn't usually involve taking another driving licence, but you should do this before 31 December 2020. It's a good idea to do this as soon as possible as there might be a backlog as we go through the transition period.

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What if I'm involved in a crash in the EU?

Currently, if you're involved in an accident with another motorist when driving in the EU, you can make a claim via your insurance company or the Motor Insurers' Bureau. These will represent you and handle any language barriers.

After Brexit, subject to what deal is made with the EU, you might be responsible for dealing directly with the third party's insurance company. This could involve communicating in their local language. If the driver isn't insured or is untraceable, you might struggle to pursue them for costs at all.

How will Brexit affect EU motoring fines?

It's currently very easy for authorities in EU countries to pursue fines for speeding and other traffic offences thanks to the Cross-Border Enforcement Directive. Unless a deal is made involving this, it will become a lot harder from next year for European police forces to trace drivers of British-registered vehicles.

While you might find that you're less likely to be caught by a speed camera, police in Europe will still be able to hand out on-the-spot fines to British drivers - and even seize your vehicle if you're excessively over the limit or refuse to pay.


GSTheo    on 1 February 2020

"As of 2020, holders of UK licences driving in EU countries may need an International Driving Permit (IDP)."

Be clear - are you saying a driver now need an IDP, or is that meant to be 2021? That's what "as of 2020" means. or is it a typo.?...pointless giving out key date info that is wrong by one year.

Sorry, I'm just unable to absorb/accept the fact we are stepping back through time into green cards and IDPs to drive through France. b***** tragic.

Andy Lane    on 2 February 2020

Brexit the gift that never stops giving...

Plodding Along    on 3 February 2020

Brexit the gift that never stops giving...

I think you mean "the gift that never stops taking away your rights."

Brexit is a b***** travesty.

James Duffy    on 3 February 2020

The need for a GB sticker is noted. But what about headlight beam deflectors and yellow headlight coatings after 1 January 2021.
It might be useful to publish a kit list that will be required from that date e.g. first aid kit, emergency warning triangle etc

pancellorum    on 3 February 2020

You need all those items now anyway, yellow Headlights we're scrapped years ago.

Geoff190    on 3 February 2020

I have become confused with the list of countries for or not for IDPs, eg Andorra do you need a 1949 IDP or not the space is blank unlike France or Spain Where it says you don't need one until 2021

ROBBIENUD    on 3 February 2020

Anyone coming to live in Spain and bringing a vehicle must Re- register it within 90 days. Failing to do this may result in the vehicle being seized, it will certainly result in a fine.
A driving licence is not legal if it is not Registered to the holders current address, this is also true in the UK.. No licence usually means no legal insurance is in force. Hence using your British licence whilst residing in Spain has the 90 day limit.

SteveInTheMidlands    on 4 February 2020

The people have spoken. This is what they demanded. Waiit till they go to the trouble of driving to the EU again and see how petty officials aand police treat us. Will be a rude shock going back to the 1950's golden era.

rob hopkins    on 4 February 2020

What are the rules regarding EU nationals Living in the UK and driving their foreign registered cars on British roads.
Do they have insurance and current MOT s on such vehicles and can their foreign number plates be traced if they are caught by speed cameras.
What are the laws regarding these vehicles being registered with British number plates and what are the authorities doing to enforce the law on road fund licence , insurance and MOT of these vehicles.

R40    on 5 February 2020

This article is about us Brits driving in Europe after Jan 2021 and the new bureaucracy craved by Brexiters. If you want answers to questions about people from outside the UK driving here then suggest you contact DVLA. If you just want to moan like any old Brexiter suggest you contact Nigel Farage and stop bothering everyone else x

marlin333    on 5 February 2020

I believe the first para says it all "no change till end of 2020" to anything.

tuk585    on 5 February 2020

Careful everybody, you might irritate HJ, who is very anti EU.

Lawlessbreed    on 7 February 2020

You may consider it 'stepping back through time' but annual green cards are issued automatically by insurance companies in Spain. If you don't like the rules, don't play the game!

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