Brexit and Driving Laws

February 13, 2020 11:15 am Published by

So, the 31st of January has come and gone, and the United Kingdom is now officially not a member of the European Union. But how has Brexit and the United Kingdom leaving the European Union affect the UK licence and British people driving on the continent?

Before the 31st of January (the so called “Brexit Day”), the UK’s driving licences could be used to drive in countries in the European Economic Area (the EEA) – which included the European Union (EU) member states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. However, now that the UK has left the EU, the UK has entered a transition period. During this transition period, pretty much everything will stay the same until the end of the year. This means that up until the 1st of January 2021, UK driving licences will continue to be a hundred percent valid throughout the EEA for business travellers and holidaymakers alike, with no extra documentation or licences required. It also ensures that British citizens living in EU nations are also free to exchange their UK licence for one from their new home country.

Unfortunately, what happens next with driving licences and their validity in different EU member states is unclear as it will depend on negotiations on the future relationship between the UK and the EU. There will need to be different arrangements established in each of the EU member states which will most likely fall to the country’s government to offer advice.

Depending on the circumstances, some of the EU member states will require UK drivers to have an International Driving Permit (an IDP). An IDP might be needed if you are planning on having a longer visit. Even if you have an IDP licence, in certain countries a British driver may also need to have their UK driving licence with them. It is also worth remembering that some countries may have stricter rules if a British driver only has a paper licence. The DVLA says more than three million people in Britain only have a paper licence, not a photocard licence.

You can buy an IDP from your local Post Office for £5.50. When applying for an IDP, it is stated on the Post Office website that you will need:

  • Your full valid UK driving licence (photocard or an older paper licence)
  • a passport standard photograph which has a true likeness of the applicant
  • the £5.50 application
  • an original, valid passport as proof of identification if you are applying with an older paper version of the driving licence.

As mentioned in one of our previous blogs, there are three different types of IDPs which British drivers might need whilst driving in Europe, though only two are used in EU states and EEA countries. These are known as the 1929, 1949 and 1968 convention IDPs:

1949 IDP: This IDP covers any visits to Cyprus and Andorra. It also covers any longer trips if you are travelling to Ireland, Malta, Spain or Iceland. The 1949 convention IDP is valid for 12 months.

1968 IDP: If you are travelling to all other EU countries that require IDPs, the 1968 convention IDP covers driving in these areas. It also is required in Norway and Switzerland if you wish to drive there with a UK licence. The 1968 convention IDP is valid for three years, or for however long your driving licence is valid, if that date is earlier.

1929 IDP: A 1929 IDP is not required in any EU state. However, a British driver might need a 1929 IDP if their trip includes travelling to Iraq or Somalia. This version of IDP is also recognised in Brazil).

It is also worth noting that only France, Italy and Cyprus require drivers to have and IDP for a short visit or holiday. The majority of EU countries, such as Spain and Germany, only need a British driver to have an IDP once he or she has been driving in the country for a set period, such as three, six or twelve months. It is also worth remembering that there will be a few countries who will not require an IDP at all, such as Switzerland and the Netherlands so don’t be caught out!

However, until the end of the transition period, it is not entirely clear whether the IDPs will still be valid in EU countries or whether a new system will be put into place. It’s also possible that the type of IDP you need to drive in countries outside Europe will change once the transition period is over.

Remember, if you are a UK driving 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 which is available online. You may need to take another driving test in some EU countries once the transition period has ended. Again, this depends on the local government and negotiations between the UK and the EU. EU and EEA licenses will continue to be accepted in the UK for visitors and residents.

It is possible that in after the transition period, 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. A Green Card is an internationally accepted document of insurance which provides visiting motorists the minimum compulsory insurance cover required by the law of the country visited. This will depend on what is agreed in negotiations between the UK and the EU and their future relationship. This means that if a UK driver is caught driving without the required Green card in any EEA country – as well as countries such as Switzerland, Andorra or Serbia – the driver could face fines or even local driving bans.

The British Government also recommends that UK drivers should have a GB sticker on their cars, even if they have a GB symbol on their number plate. It is also essential that UK drivers carry their V5C log book with them if they are driving their own car. If it is a hire or lease car from the UK, then a UK driver will need to have a VE103 form to show that they have permission to take it out of the UK.

Arguably, the most important and inconvenient change to occur once the transition period has ended is what happens with road traffic accidents. If a UK driver is involved in a road traffic accident in an EEA country, then he or she may need to make a claim against the responsible driver or their insurer in the country where the accident occurred. This is more than likely to involve doing the claim in the local language, which could be difficult and stressful for many UK drivers.

Again, this all depends on how negotiations go between the UK and the EU. Once the transition period has ended, it is unclear as to whether these rules will still apply or whether a new system will be introduced by the EU. As long as you thoroughly research what licences and permits are needed for the country you are travelling to, you will be legally able to drive in the EU.

To have a read of the newspaper articles that have been used in this blog, please look at the following websites:

Our team of specialist driving offence solicitors at Driving Solicitors have the experience and expertise to give advice over any issues that might come after the UK’s departure from the European Union. If you are concerned about how changes that Brexit might have on UK’s driving laws and / or driving licences, or your future holiday plans then please do not hesitate to contact Driving Solicitors on 0203 488 2551 or email us on info@drivingsolicitors.co.uk to get expert legal advice from a specialist motoring solicitor today.

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Written by:  Miriam Rhodes-Leader