THERE’S STILL a lot of uncertainty around the UK’s future relationship with the European Union after Brexit but according to recent advice from the government, there is a possibility that a no-deal withdrawal will mean British driving licences will no longer be valid in some of the remaining 27 EU member states. British motorists may therefore need to apply for International Driving Permits (IDPs) before heading to the continent by road, according to the advice.
So what are IDPs, how do you get one and what else do you need to know before a European road trip? We’ve created this simple guide.
Can I drive on the continent with my UK licence after a no-deal Brexit?
If the UK leaves the EU without a 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 IDP before they drive in the EU. The National Audit Office predicts that between 100,000 and 7m IDPs would need to be issued in the first year after Brexit. However, Portugal has confirmed that British drivers would 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 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?
You may need a “Green Card” from your insurer to cover you when driving in EU/EEA countries. 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.
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.
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.
Check to see what equipment you need to have in your car when driving in an EU/EEA country. For example, in Germany, you need to have a warning triangle, beam deflectors (depending on the car), a first aid kit and hi-viz jackets. In France, a rule to require a breathalyser kit in every car has been postponed indefinitely, although a hi-viz vest is needed for each passenger and a warning triangle must be carried.
If you plan to take your dog (or any other pet) with you on holiday in Europe, things are likely to become complicated.
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 a no-deal 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 we leave the EU, 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.
Before Brexit, expats can exchange their UK driving licence for on 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.
After Brexit, 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.