What Brexit means for driving in Europe

Driving in Europe after Brexit Day: what you need to know

Be prepared

WE’RE OUT: the UK has officially left the European Union (EU), as of 11pm tonight (January 31, 2019). But what does that mean for driving in Europe?

The important thing to know is that, for anyone with plans take their car across the channel before the end of 2020, nothing will change because we are now in a transition period that runs for the rest of the year. So, until January 1, 2021, all current rules remain in place.

Dan Hutson, head of motor insurance at comparethemarket.com said:

“From the start of February, we enter a transition phase in which the negotiations begin as to how issues like driving, travel and data roaming will work between the UK and Europe. Any holidays or driving trips to Europe which you have planned in the near future, will not change as a result of today and the biggest impact is likely to be how many Euros you get for your Pounds.

“Holiday-goers should bear in mind, however, that the status quo will not last forever. The transition period will finish at the end of this year so, if you are planning a holiday or trip to Europe next year, it will be important to check how the rules may have changed to avoid ending up under-insured, or subject to different terms and conditions.”

Is my UK Driving licence still valid in Europe?

Yes, but only during the transition period (until December 31, 2020). What happens after that is unclear.

If the UK leaves the EU without any kind of deal, there won’t be a legal precedent for UK driving licences to be accepted in EU and European Economic Area (EEA) member states. According to the Department for Transport, British drivers may as a result need an International Driving Permit (IDP) before they drive in the EU.

However, Portugal has previously stated that British drivers will not require one to drive within its borders.

Where can I get an IDP and how much do they cost?

You can only get an IDP in the UK over the counter at larger Post Office branches (find your nearest one here) — it can’t be done via post or online, so you will need to plan well ahead of your trip. When applying for an IDP, you need to take along your driving licence and a passport photo of yourself, for ID purposes.

In order to get an IDP, you need to be at least 18 years old and have held a full UK driving licence for at least a year. Provisional licence holders won’t be able to get an IDP.

IDPs cost £5.50, which can be paid with cash or a credit/debit card.

Is there more than one type of IDP?

Yes, three types of permit are needed for the EU: the 1926 IDP, the 1949 IDP and the 1968 IDP. The only EU/EEA country you’ll need a 1926 IDP for is Lichtenstein, while the 1949 IDP applies to Cyprus, Iceland, Malta and Spain. All other EU/EEA countries accept the 1968 IDP.

IDPs cross borders, meaning you only need one 1968 IDP if, for example, you drive from France to Belgium. Brits who drive from France and Spain, however, will need a 1949 and a 1968 IDP before they travel.

The change will not apply to those travelling to the Irish Republic as the country does not require a permit in addition to their driving licence.

Do IDPs expire?

The 1968 IDP is valid for up to three years after it was first issued, and the 1926 and 1949 IDPs are only valid for one year. All three IDPs automatically expire if your UK driving licence runs out during that time.

If you buy an IDP before Brexit, you can have it post-dated so that it comes into effect the day that the UK leaves the EU.

What happens if I don’t have an IDP?

Border staff at ports can turn you away if you don’t have a valid IDP. If you’re caught driving in the EU and EEA without an IDP when one is required, you can be fined, have your car confiscated or even sent to court.

Does an IDP replace a driving licence?

No, it does not replace a driving licence. You need to have your UK licence on you at all times if you drive in Europe, even with the correct IDPs. Check traffic laws in the country you’re visiting to see if you also need your passport on you when driving.


What else do I need to know about driving in the EU?

Make sure you have the right kit

According to the AA after the initial Brexit vote, British drivers should take extra care to adhere to EU rules, even while negotiations take place.

Ian Crowder, spokesperson for the motoring organisation, told The Sunday Times: “Minor indiscretions may have been overlooked in the past, but it is now even more important to abide by the letter of the law if you don’t want to be stopped and fined by EU traffic police.”

For example, you need to have a warning triangle in your car as well as a reflective jacket in France. The jacket must be kept in the car — not in the boot — because you are expected to be wearing it when stepping out of your vehicle in an emergency.

You must also carry a breathalyser kit at all times. The AA recommends having two in case you use one, but non-disposable breathalysers are also available.

You must also display a GB sticker on your car, though since the introduction of European registration plates showing the European flag, extra stickers have not been necessary. After the transition period, we will not have European plates in the UK so it stands to reason stickers will be required once more.

Travel and motor insurance after Britain leaves the EU

Motor insurance policies that offer an extension of cover for European travel, either for free or at a cost, will continue providing protection during the transition period.

And there should be no immediate change to the level of protection you have under your travel insurance policies, according to The Association of British Insurers, though you must check with your insurer before travelling.

However, as part of the EU, British travellers have been entitled to medical treatment in EU countries at a reduced cost or for free, thanks to the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). Visitors to Britain have received the same right, and that will continue until the end of 2020.

However, the UK government will now have to renegotiate the EHIC and the cost of travel insurance from 2021 could increase because insurers may be footing the bill for all medical treatment, rather than having a proportion dealt with through the EHIC system.

Green Cards

You may also need a “Green Card” from your insurer to cover you when driving in EU/EEA countries from 2021. These are currently free, though it’s not clear if they’ll stay that way after Brexit. Either way, be sure to speak with your insurer well in advance.

Schengen Visas

From 2021 onwards, you will need to have an ETIAS travel permit (aka a Schengen Zone Visa) to visit EU and EEA countries, regardless of whether the UK leaves the EU with a deal or not.

Motorway stickers

Some EU/EEA countries (such as Austria, the Czech Republic and Switzerland) require you to buy and clearly display a vignette sticker on your vehicle’s windscreen before you can drive on their motorways. Check traffic laws in the country you’re visiting to see if this is a requirement, and find out where you can buy the vignette sticker.


If you plan to take your dog (or any other pet) with you on holiday in Europe, things are likely to become complicated from 2021.

The government warns that pets would need a new health certificate issued from an authorised vet every time they enter the EU. Pet owners will have to present this health certificate upon arriving in the EU as proof that the animal is microchipped, vaccinated against rabies and has passed a blood test with an authorised EU laboratory.

The government’s full list of advice for pet owners after Brexit can be found here.

Will British expats still be able to drive in the EU?

Up to half a million people living in European Union member states with British driving licences may need to trade them in for one issued in those countries before January 1, 2021, or sit a new test, the Department for Transport has said.

The AA said that a large number of those affected were likely to be pensioners who have retired to countries such as France and Spain decades after sitting their UK driving test.

Between now and then, expats can exchange their UK driving licence for one from the EU country in which they live. British expats can swap their licence back to a UK one if they decide to return to live in the UK.

From 2021, expats won’t be able to swap their UK licence for one from the EU country they live and may have to take a new test in the EU country in which they live.