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Driving Abroad After Brexit: Everything You Need to Know

Amid the upheaval that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused across 2020, it’s easy to forget that before it all the UK had, and still has, more than enough on its plate in the form of Brexit. Indeed, while we were all yearning for the news to be about anything but Brexit at the start of the year, we might even be glad to see it back if it means a sense of social normality returns in 2021.

But after three quarters of a year out of the limelight, where do things currently stand with the Brexit process, and what are the ramifications for British citizens? Among the other key areas of discussion, one of the most important matters is in relation to driving in the EU after Brexit has concluded.

You likely have many questions. Can I drive abroad after Brexit? Am I insured to drive abroad after Brexit? What documents do I require? With that in mind, we try to explain everything you need to know on driving abroad after Brexit.

Brexit: quick facts

  • The UK officially left the EU as of the 31st January 2020
  • The transition period for Brexit to complete with end on the 31st December 2020
  • Despite ongoing negotiations, there is currently no EU trade deal in place, meaning the UK faces the prospect of a “hard” or “no deal” Brexit
  • A number of key facets of our current way of life will change on the 1st January 2021, with a cessation to free movement around the EU for British citizens and changes to travel, immigration and international finances some of the headline elements
  • With regards to driving, significant changes aren’t expected at least initially, but drivers may require additional documents while driving abroad after Brexit.

What is the UK’s current status in relation to the EU?

First, it’s best to clarify the UK’s current position in relation to Brexit and the EU.

As of the 31st January 2020, the UK officially left the EU. However, the transition period of this departure, as in the removal of the arrangements in place for the UK whilst in the EU, won’t complete until the 31st December 2020. That means, right now, that we are still effectively living under conditions as they were before, with virtually all of the established EU arrangements in place until then.

After that date, from the first day of 2021 onwards, these arrangements, including the current driving laws in place, will change. It’s from the 1st January 2021 that the adjustments below come into play. It’s worth noting, however, that these rules may either be yet to be solidified or subject to change as negotiations between the UK and the EU continue.

Driving abroad with your insurance: the additional documents required

One of the biggest questions heading into the new year is whether driving abroad with a green card will be required. Right now, your UK insurance is still valid for driving the European Economic Area (EEA, which is all EU member states plus Iceland, Norway and Lichtenstein). It will continue to be so in the new year; however, you may require additional documentation to support it.

A green card is a document that proves your car is covered when driving in Europe. You can get a green card from your insurer free of charge, but it should be noted that they can take up to a month to process and only remain valid for 90 days. As of right now, it’s not explicitly stated that you will have to have a green card to drive abroad. In all likelihood, it will be the case and an announcement should be made before the end of the year. When getting your green card, make sure you talk to your insurer to establish what cover it proves you have while you’re abroad.

If you own your car, you’ll also need to carry your V5C log book with you. This proves your ownership of the vehicle and summarises your vehicle key statistics and history. If you’re driving a hire car abroad or leasing, you’ll need a VE103 form which proves you have permission to drive the car outside of the UK. The government also recommends you apply a GB sticker to the back of your car, even if your number plate features the GB logo.

If you do get into an accident while in an EEA country in the new year, you may have to make a claim in the country where the accident occurred. This will depend on the country and be subject to the result of negotiations. But if that turns out to be the case, your claim may have to be done in the local language, which will be both inconvenient and potentially problematic.

Can I still use my driving licence abroad?

Driving licence requirements abroad aren’t set to change too much. Your UK driving licence will still be valid in EEA states from the 1st January 2021 onwards, however some countries may require you to have an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive abroad in addition to your licence.

You can purchase an IDP from your local post office for £5.50. No EEA countries are currently planning to make an IDP compulsory for drivers visiting for periods shorter than 12 months, but it’s worth checking on country-specific advice before your trip, which you can find on the government website. It’s also worth noting that this situation could change in the future. There are two types of IDP available that could be required in Europe – the 1949 IDP and the 1968 IDP. Some countries require the 1949 version, others require the 1968.

Once the UK departs the EU, it’s possible that IDP requirements could also change in relation to driving abroad in countries outside of Europe. For more information on using an IDP when driving abroad and a full list of which European countries require which IDP, visit the government advice page.

In case you are wondering about the soon-to-be-outdated EU flag on your driver’s licence – it doesn’t change anything in relation to its validity in the UK. So, using your driving licence abroad and at home shouldn’t change in any palpable way, for the time being at least.

What if I’m a UK citizen living abroad?

IDPs are only relevant when visiting other countries. If you are a UK licence holder living in an EU or EEA country, you’ll need to trade in your UK licence for one issued by your country of residence after the transition has completed.

In some countries, if you wait until the transition has ended, you may need to take another driving test to attain your new domestic licence. Specific guidance per country can be found on the government website. If you’re visiting the UK, your EU or EEA licence will be valid for use on British roads.

So, can I drive my car abroad after Brexit?

The answer, in short, is yes – just with a few tweaks, the extent of which are yet to be seen. The biggest changes are likely to surround insurance, more specifically your proof of insurance abroad, while driving licence requirements abroad will remain broadly the same for the time being. If you are looking to travel abroad in the near future and you’re uncertain about your position, speak to your insurer and seek out government advice before your trip.


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