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Driving in Europe after Brexit: what will I need, and are there different rules?

Car Buyer logo Car Buyer 13/03/2019 Ben Custard
a sign on a city street filled with lots of traffic: Driving in Europe after Brexit: what will I need, and are there different rules? © Carbuyer Driving in Europe after Brexit: what will I need, and are there different rules?

The Brexit deadline is looming, and the UK may end up leaving the European Union without a deal if nothing is agreed by 11pm on Friday 29th March 2019. Leaving without a deal will mean that current rules for driving abroad will no longer apply, so make sure you know what you will need to take and how a no-deal scenario will affect you.

In this guide we’ll cover IDPs, green cards, hire cars, taking a trailer onto the continent and more. Below, we also list out the things you’ll need to do when driving abroad, if the UK doesn’t secure a deal.

© Altai World Photography Driving abroad to-do list:

Buy an International Driving Permit

Inform your insurance provider

Get a green card

Buy a GB sticker

Register your trailer (if applicable)

Get a local driving license before 29 March (if staying in the EU for a longer period)

International Driving Permits

If the UK hasn’t struck a deal by 29th March, you’ll need additional documents to prevent getting into hot water. You will need to buy an International Driving Permit (IDP) from your local post office, which costs £5.50 and takes a matter of minutes to complete at the counter. Although it’s essentially a European copy of your driving licence, you’ll also need to take your UK photocard driver’s licence.

There are two main types of IDP that you might need if you plan to drive in Europe after Brexit, and if your route includes France and Spain you’ll need both types. If this affects you, you’ll need to pay for two IDPs at the post office. Try to get into a country that requires an IDP without one, and you’ll either be turned away or fined. IDPs tend to be valid for 12 months.

© 2018 R A Kearton Green cards

Unless the UK and EU manage to reach an agreement about the UK’s departure, you will need to have a green card when you drive abroad - in addition to an IDP. A green card is a document that shows you are insured to drive overseas, and can be issued by your insurance provider through a quick phone call. You should always inform them when you are driving abroad to make sure you’ll be covered.

Green cards shouldn’t cost you anything, but, again, you’ll need a different one for France and Spain. The document needs to be printed on green paper, and must have at least 15 days cover on it.

© Vicki Jauron Hiring a car abroad after Brexit

It varies, but you may need an IDP to drive a hire car in Europe from the end of March. Check with your hire company to make sure. If they do require one, make sure you get one before you go, as you either won’t be able to hire a car or you’ll have to take out a more expensive policy from the hire company.

What happens if you have an accident?

Up until now, your insurance company would deal with the other party if you have an accident in Europe - and if they wouldn’t, you could go to the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB) and they’d sort it out.

In the event of a no-deal situation, neither are expected to help you. Make sure you ring up your insurance company before you go to find out whether they will contact the other insurance company in the event of a collision. If they won’t, you’ll have to deal with a foreign insurance company. This is likely to be a lot of hassle, and we’d recommend packing a translation device if you’re not a fluent speaker - expect the proceedings to be in the native language of the country in which you had the accident.

GB stickers and correct number plates

When travelling in the EU after Brexit, you’ll need to have a GB sticker stuck on the back of your car. If your car’s number plates have the blue EU logo on them, you previously haven’t needed a GB sticker, but Brexit rule changes mean you’ll need one as well. The only exception to this is if your number plates have a Union Jack flag with ‘GB’ underneath.

Can I tow a trailer in Europe after Brexit?

Yes you can, and this is an aspect of driving abroad that won’t change much in the event of a no-deal. You may have to register your trailer, but only if it’s a commercial trailer weighing over 750kg or a non-commercial trailer that’s heavier than 3,500kg. The trailer needs to be registered with the DVLA, will need a separate registration plate, and you’ll need to be able to produce the trailer registration certificate if you’re asked for it abroad.

Register your trailer on the DVLA website.

Will expats be affected when driving abroad?

For British residents of a European country, you will need to swap your UK licence for a local licence before 29th March. If the UK crashes out without a deal, you’ll no longer be able to do this - not easily, anyway. Your UK licence won’t be valid outside Britain any more, and you may have to take a local driving test to continue driving. The Government’s Department for Transport (DfT) has advised emigrants to switch their license to a European one as soon as possible, as extra demand will lead to queues and longer processing times.

Will EU nationals be affected when driving in the UK?

The current arrangements for EU nationals won’t change after Brexit. EU and EEA licence holders won’t need a separate UK licence, and won’t need an IDP to drive over here. If an EU national lives in Britain for longer than three years, or passes 70 years of age, they will need to take a UK driving test to carry on driving on UK roads.

Gallery: The 1000-Horsepower Club [AutoNXT]

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