Brexit: what you need to know about driving in the EU if there’s ‘no deal’

Updated 17 December 2020.

While Brexit talks are still going on, and certain things aren’t set in stone just yet, there are a lot of potential changes you should prepare for.

Whether you’re taking a car abroad or planning to drive a hire car once you get to a foreign country it’s likely you’ll have to apply for some paperwork. Read on to find out what you’ll need – if we leave the European Union/European Economic Area (EEA) without a deal.

Green cards: insurance when you’re driving in the EU

An insurance green card shows that you have the minimum level of cover necessary for driving in a particular country. It doesn’t have any impact on the type of cover you have, it just shows that you have the legal minimum.

Unless a deal is made with the EU, you’ll need a green card when travelling in any EU country.

Your insurance provider may send you a green card automatically, or you may need to contact them to get one. If a deal isn’t made saying otherwise, the green card will be a legal requirement, so it’s important you stay up to date.

U K Insurance, who underwrite our breakdown cover, have more detailed information on green cards here.

What sort of driving licence do you need?

Currently when we drive in continental Europe, our Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) driving licence card is sufficient. Should the UK strike an exit deal with the European Union, this arrangement may be able to continue.

If there’s no deal between the UK and EU, this could change in the new year. Drivers will need an International Driving Permit (IDP) for driving in all EU countries apart from the Republic of Ireland. And not any old IDP either.

What licence for which country?

Most of the popular European countries for driving in (eg: France, Germany, Belgium, Italy and Austria) are covered by what’s known as the 1968 IDP. But if you’re going to be driving in Spain (or Cyprus, Iceland and Malta) you’ll need a 1949 IDP. Travelling to Spain through France will require two sorts of IDP.

You can find out more on the Gov website here.

How much and where from?

You can get an IDP from main post offices in the UK. They only cost £5.50 each and they last for between one and three years depending on the type.

What happens if you don’t have an IDP?

If your IDP isn’t valid for the country you’ll be driving in, you could be turned away at the border with the EU. And if you’re caught driving in an EU country (plus non-EU countries such as Andorra, Switzerland and Serbia) without the relevant IDP, you could be fined, have your car confiscated, or be sent to court. The message is clear: get the right IDP.

Do we need car country identifiers?

A country identifier on the car’s number plate or as a body sticker signifies that a car has been registered in the UK. Even while we’re in the EU, every car has to show some kind of GB (or other part of the UK) signage while abroad.

If you’ve got one of these, you’ll have to replace it (Picture iStock/MarioGuti)

A lot of modern cars have registration plates with the GB sign inside the EU flag, called Euro plates. Should we leave the EU without a deal, these will no longer be valid and drivers whose cars have these will have to display GB (or similar) signage too. If you have a registration plate with just the GB symbol on but not in Euro plate format, these will still be legal.

What happens if you have a crash?

If we leave the EU without a deal, you really don’t want to have a road traffic accident in an EU/EEA country. At the moment if this happens, we claim via a UK-based claims representative or through the UK Motor Insurers’ Bureau.

From a no deal Brexit onwards, if you need to claim against a driver or insurer based in an EU/EEA country, you’ll have to do so in the country where the accident took place, which may involve lots of admin in a foreign language. And if you have an accident caused by an uninsured or untraced driver, you may not receive any compensation if we leave the EU without a deal. The government says this will vary from country to country.

It would also be beneficial to have a European Accident Statement in the car. In many countries this has to be signed after a crash. The advantage of having one with you is it’ll be in English, not a foreign language, so you’ll know what you’re signing.

Do you need a visa?

As explained on the Gov website, you will not need a visa for short trips as a tourist. You’ll be able to spend up to 90 days in any 180-day period in the Shengen Area.

What if you’re taking pets abroad?

The pet passport system will no longer be applicable for travel in Europe. There is a new process where you’re advised to get in touch with your vet 4 months before you plan on travelling. You’re going to need a fair bit of paperwork as well.

Find out all the details here.

Check your passport

Passport validity rules are changing. On the day you plan on travelling, your passport needs to have at least six months left on it, and also be less than 10 years old.

It’s probably best you check your passport sooner rather than later to make sure your plans aren’t ruined. You can check your passport here.

European Health Insurance Card

We could lose access to the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) which guaranteed reciprocal healthcare on the same terms as a resident of that country (not necessarily free). We have a replacement arrangement with Ireland and Switzerland but will need to negotiate agreements with all other countries if no deal is agreed for EU exit. EHIC is in addition to travel insurance but neither replaces the other. The loss of EHIC will make buying travel insurance and fully declaring medical conditions even more important.

So, it’s safe to say there’s a lot of change that’s on the way. While you’re preparing for the future, if you’re planning on driving in Europe, make sure to check out our European driving kits as well. 

One comment on “Brexit: what you need to know about driving in the EU if there’s ‘no deal’

  1. ANNICK RENARD 24/09/2019 1:38 PM

    Hi i am French leaving in UK for the last 14 years, with a no deal Brexit, do i need a IDP as i’m travelling back and fore between the 2 countries very often ? Thank you for your help.

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