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Driving in Europe Post Brexit: what to expect

International Driving Permits and Insurance Green Cards

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We tend to take for granted the idea of traversing Europe unhindered.

The spectacle of the Stelvio pass in the Italian Alps, the glamour of the French Riviera. Thrashing the German Autobahn unhindered by speed limits, or jostling for space with bikes, trams and hump-backed bridges in Amsterdam.

All part of Europe’s rich tapestry of road culture.

But what happens post-Brexit?  How will our freedoms and unbridled travel change should there be a no-deal outcome?

If you check the Government’s latest advice on driving in Europe, you’ll find much of their recommendations are – at the time of writing – hedged by phrases like “you might need…” With “might” being the operative word.

The truth is, things are changing by the day and guidance is shaped by real-time political events, specifically: deal or no deal.

So, if you’re heading Europe-bound in the next few weeks, here’s our list of the key things to help you get prepared

Permission to drive

In the event of a no deal, most sources are suggesting that the UK and EU may end their mutual recognition of driving licences.

Should this happen GB and Northern Ireland driving licence holders will need to purchase the appropriate International Driving Permit (IDP) for whichever European Union (EU) country they are visiting.

If challenged by the local authorities or Police in an EU country, drivers will need to produce a current IDP in addition to a valid UK driving licence (the IDP effectively validates your UK driving licence in the specified country).

IDPs may also be required in European countries outside of the EU, like Norway and Switzerland.

According to the RAC, an IDP is valid for a maximum of one year and must be purchased in advance of travel – they cannot be issued retrospectively. You have to be at least 18-years old and have a current full UK licence in order to qualify for one.

They can only be purchased over the counter through the Post Office at some 2,500 branches and cannot be purchased more than 3-months before travel.

Different countries require different types of IDP, so be prepared to carry more than one depending on the number of countries you are travelling through.

For example, the 1949 Convention IDP covers Spain, Cyprus, Malta and Iceland as well as, incidentally, the USA.

While the 1926 Convention IDP covers Liechtenstein.

All other EU countries as well as Norway and Switzerland are covered by the 1968 Convention IDP.

IDPs cost £5.50 each. To purchase one, you will need to produce your full, valid UK driving licence as well as a passport sized photograph. If you’re applying with an older paper Driving licence (as opposed to a photocard) you will need to bring an original, valid passport to prove your identity and likeness to your photo.

According to the AA and the i-newspaper, if you fail to produce an IDP when requested, a UK driver could be fined or potentially be sent back home.

Clearly the above advice could all change if there is a deal before Brexit. That said, if you are travelling to Europe imminently it might be better to be safer than sorry, and to pay-up your £5.50 in the event that the UK crashes out of Europe.

Green Card your Insurance

According to the Association of British Insurers, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, drivers are advised to contact their motoring insurance provider to request a Green Card to validate their policy in the EU.

The ABI also state that the same requirements apply to EU motorists travelling to the UK.

Green cards effectively provide an internationally recognised certificate of insurance that guarantees third-party cover for travel in a set of specified countries.

If you are towing a trailer or caravan your insurer may require you to obtain separate Green Cards in addition to your car or main vehicle.

Given the potential demand for Green Cards, you should leave sufficient time to apply for one – perhaps a month.

While Green Cards are free, you may have to pay a basic administrative fee in some cases.

Green cards are not required if you are renting a car in Europe – you will instead be covered by the Rental Firm’s insurance policy.

Travel Insurance

While the Association of British Insurers provide the reassuring advice that travel insurance will continue to work in the normal way following a no-deal Brexit, they also flag-up that  changes will apply to the EHIC – European Health Insurance Card.

The EHIC, which currently entitles card holders to free state-funded medical treatment if they have an accident or fall ill in an EU country, will cease to be valid in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Should a Brexit deal be struck, there is a chance that the EHIC scheme will continue for a transition period – as suggested in Theresa May’s last proposed deal agreement in July. However, at the time of writing, it remains to be seen whether a deal struck by Boris Johnson would retain this agreement.

UK expats in Europe

Government advice suggests that UK nationals in the EU should exchange their UK driving licence for the local country licence where they live. In the event of a no-deal Brexit, this exchange may require the licence holder to take and pass a local driving test.

Where a licence is exchanged, the UK national will still be able to drive using their new EU licence if they visit the UK.

If an expat is returning to live in the UK, they will be able to swap their EU licence for a UK licence without taking a driving test, provided they passed their original test in the UK or a country specified by the DVLA.

Sticker-up

At the moment UK drivers with an EU registration plate (displaying the blue EU-flag) do not need to additionally display a GB sticker on their vehicle.

However, while it remains to be seen whether the same will apply if a deal is struck with the EU, should there be a no-deal Brexit, all cars – whether they have EU registration plates or not – will be required to display a sticker.

The outlook

As stated above, events are changing by the day and the final implications for IDPs, Green Cards, Expats rulings and GB stickers are likely to be dependent on a deal or no deal. Our tip is to keep checking the Government’s advice for official recommendations.