Brexit driving changes

Will the rules for driving abroad change after Brexit?

The end of the year-long Brexit transition period looms. But come January 1st 2021, what are the changes to international law that those looking to drive within EU countries need to be aware of? From insurance, to permits, to GB stickers. Let’s take a look.

The main changes for UK motorists driving in the EU after Brexit will be:

  • You will still be required to travel with your UK photocard licence but you may also require an International Driving Permit.
  • As well as your proof of insurance, you will need to obtain a motor insurance green card from your insurer and to make sure you have sufficient cover for your trip.
  • You'll need to display a GB sticker in the rear of your vehicle.
  • Car owners must still take their V5 and lease holders will still need to obtain a Vehicle on Hire form from their lease funder.
UK driving licence

Driving licence laws after Brexit

UK driving licences will still be valid in EU countries after January 1st 2021. However, they may need to be accompanied by an International Driving Permit (IDP). 

You are required to obtain an IDP in addition to your driving licence in a few cases:

  • You only have a paper licence, not the photocard version
  • Your driving licence was issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man.

If you are living within another EU country and are a UK licence-holder, you may need to change your licence for one issued locally. This may involve retaking your driving test.

UK driving licences will still be valid in EU countries after Brexit but you may also need an IDP to cover your trip.

International Driving Permit (IDP

International driving permits (IDP) after Brexit

An IDP, in basic terms, is a version of your driving licence that facilitates foreign interpretation. It translates the details on your UK photocard licence to allow foreign authorities to confirm your identity.

There are two types of IDP available, each governed by different conventions on road traffic law. The first by the 1949 Geneva Convention and the other the 1968 Vienna Convention. The type you need will depend on your destination.

This guidance will be updated after the 1st January 2021 to reflect final Brexit negotiations.

An IDP will cost you £5.50 and they are available from 2,500 post offices across the country. If you are still not sure which IDP you need, their handy tool will help you find out. The 1949 IDP is valid for 12 months and the 1968 IDP is valid for three years in their respective governing countries.

Remember, some of us will need to carry both our UK photocard licence and IDP for legal travel within the EU after the Brexit transition period ends. This will also be required when hiring a car there.

Some UK drivers travelling in EU countries after Brexit will need to apply for an IDP to cover their trip.

Car insurance green card

Car insurance after Brexit

Under EU law, British citizens could drive within the EU for up to 90 days with sufficient UK insurance documentation in their possession. After Brexit, a motor insurance green card will be required to lawfully drive within EU countries.

Similarly to an IDP, this insurance green card is a means to allow local authorities to easily translate your insurance documentation. Therefore, It provides interpretable proof that you hold the minimum compulsory insurance to cover you driving within the country you are visiting.

An insurance green card is required to be printed on green paper to be legally binding. You will also need to have at least 15 days’ cover when entering an EU country.

Motor insurance green cards will be issued by your insurance provider, who advise you apply at least six weeks ahead of your intended departure. A green card is only proof of minimum cover levels and may not necessarily match the level of cover you have in the UK. We advise checking with your insurer that you have the cover you desire when driving abroad but bear in mind this may come at an additional cost. Separate green cards are required for trailers and caravans.

UK motorist driving in EU countries after Brexit will need to obtain an insurance green card and ensure their insurance covers them effectively when driving abroad.

GB car stickers

GB sticker requirements after Brexit

Before Brexit, a GB sticker was only compulsory if your vehicle's registration plates did not have the blue section on the left-hand side which displayed the GB initials.

From January 1st, you will need to display a GB sticker in the rear of your vehicle, trailer or caravan regardless of your number plate. The only exemption is if your number plate displays the GB national identifier and the Union Jack flag. 

You will therefore now need to clearly display a GB sticker when travelling in Europe if your number plate has:

  • A Euro symbol
  • A national flag of England, Wales or Scotland
  • No flag or identifier

GB stickers are widely available online. We would recommend reusable magnetic versions to save waste and the need to spend on replacements each time you intend to drive within an EU country.

UK motorists will be required to display a GB sticker in their vehicle regardless of whether their number plate displays GB identifiers.

Lease cars

V5 and VE103 laws after Brexit

As well as remembering your UK photocard licence, your IDP and your insurance green card, you will still need to carry your V5 document when driving abroad. This rule hasn’t changed as it proves you are in legal possession of the vehicle you are driving. It will therefore remain in place regardless of any Brexit negotiations.

Lease holders do not hold the V5 for their car as it is owned by their finance company. So, drivers hoping to take their lease cars abroad will still need to contact their funder to request a VE103 or Vehicle on Hire form. The VE103 confirms that you have permission to be driving your vehicle abroad despite not being the legal owner.

UK motorists will still need to provide proof of vehicle ownership after Brexit by carrying their V5 or, in the case of lease cars, their VE103 documentation.


UK passports and EU travel after Brexit

At the time of writing, changing your passport won't be one of the changes you will need to consider after Brexit. Your current UK passport is expected to still be valid when travelling to EU countries, whether driving or not. However, you will need to renew your passport if it is older than ten years or has less than 6 months left. Without this, access to most EU countries after 1 January will be prohibited.

Mobile data

UK phone networks have advised to check your contract before using mobile data abroad. Charges may now apply. 

Driving in EU countries after Brexit

There are a number of changes to driving law that UK motorists will need to consider when driving in EU countries after the Brexit transition period ends. Nevertheless, it shouldn't be something to be scared of, and if prepared for ahead of time and with suitable organisation, driving in the EU after Brexit should remain as attractive a proposition as it always has.