Driving in Europe after Brexit

By Peter Dodd


It is planned that the United Kingdom is to depart from the European Union by 31st October 2019. This is a postponement from the original leave date of 29th March 2019. It is therefore uncertain whether the UK will leave with a deal by this date – especially with the current debates parliament are having.

We don’t know what deal the UK will have with the EU, but we do know that parliament has passed a law to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

Many UK citizens reside in the EU and thousands of UK citizens travel to the EU for holidays or work. Currently, if you possess a UK DVLA driving licence then you can drive in the EU freely, without any additional documents or licences.

Come 31st October, this may all change and the agreement whereby EU countries recognise UK driving licences may be lost.

In Theresa May’s proposed deal which was rejected in March 2019, the mutual recognition of UK driving licences was to remain. However, this does not mean that this will be the case in practice or that it will form part of another deal.


If there is a general election which ultimately leads to the UK leaving the EU without a deal, then UK drivers taking their car, or driving in EU states, may require documentation to accompany their driving licence.

Motorists may be required to purchase an International Driving Permit (IDP). An IDP acts as temporary proof of driving ability for travellers. To apply for an IDP you must be over 18 and hold a valid UK driving licence.

There are three types of IDPs available, although only two are used within the EU.

If you are travelling to Ireland, Malta, Spain or Cyprus, you may require a 1949 IDP. The 1949 Convention IDP is valid for 12 months.

If you are travelling to all other EU states, you may require a 1968 IDP. The 1968 convention IDP is valid for three years, or for however long your driving licence is valid.

A single IDP will cost £5.50. If you plan to drive through Malta, Spain or Cyprus as well as anywhere else in the EU then two IDPs will need to be purchased costing £11. Ireland does not require an IDP in order to drive there.

From 1st February 2019, the Post Office became the sole issuer of IDPs. Due to the increase in demand there has been a shortage of IDPs and long delays to be issued one.

The UK government states: ‘If, after exit day, you become resident in an EU country you would not have the automatic right under EU law to exchange your UK licence for a driving licence from the EU country you’re living in. Depending on the laws of the EU country you move to, you may need to take a new driving test in that country. You can avoid this by exchanging your UK driving licence for one from the EU country you move to or live in before the formal leaving date. UK licence holders who do this will be able to re-exchange for a UK licence if they return to live in the UK.’

Therefore, if you plan to reside in the EU then you should exchange your UK driving licence as soon as possible to avoid having to complete another driving test.

In the event of a no-deal Brexit, the government announced in September 2018 that drivers taking their vehicle abroad post-Brexit would need to carry a Green Card. A Green Card is an international certificate of motor insurance. Currently you do not need motor insurance to drive a UK registered vehicle in the EU. Although European insurance authorities agreed to waive the need for Green Cards in the event of a no-deal Brexit in May 2018, it has not been confirmed by the EU.

Green Cards would be required under EU regulations as proof of insurance if the UK leaves the EU without a withdrawal deal. Motorists should speak to their insurance company if they are driving in the EU after the leaving date if there is no withdrawal bill. If you are travelling with a caravan or trailer, you will need a Green Card for both the towing vehicle and the trailer.

Following the UK’s exit from the EU, all cars must display a GB sticker on their car. You should continue to keep your vehicle registration documents with you when driving. If there is no withdrawal deal, the EU will not recognise UK MOT certificates so if you are planning to reside in the EU, your vehicle needs to be tested there also.