How to Drive Legally in Europe after the Brexit transition
If you intend to drive in Europe after the Brexit transition period you may need to complete some additional paperwork before your European driving tour. The information below will help you understand the requirements to legally drive your motorhome in Europe post-Brexit. These documents may be required before you drive to your chosen campsite, or if you have a motorhome, to French Aires or German Stellplatze. Information about passports and traveller requirements are in our related post 4 Must-do Checks before Entering the EU after the Brexit transition.
Do I need an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in the EU?
Non-EU citizens may need an International Driving Permit to drive a vehicle in the European Union, including a hire car. Therefore, if you are a UK citizen with a British driving licence, you may need to obtain an IDP after Brexit, before you set off on your European road trip. This is because the British driving licence may no longer be a recognised, valid document within the EU post-Brexit. The British government aims to petition the EU to avoid this, but IDPs may be required until a deal is agreed. There are three types of IDP: International Driving Permit 1949 is required in Iceland, Malta, Spain and Cyprus and is valid for 1 year. The International Driving Permit 1926, required in Liechtenstein, is also valid for 1 year. The remaining EU/EEA countries accept the International Driving Permit 1968, which is valid for 3 years. You will not need an IDP if you intend to visit Ireland.
An IDP is a piece of cardboard with your photograph attached that acts as your driving licence. If you have an IDP you should still carry your British driving licence with you. The IDP is easy to obtain from the Post Office in person, simply bring your existing photo licence and a passport-sized photo with you. All three IDPs currently cost £5.50, so the IDP 1968 is the best value as it is valid the longest and is accepted in the most countries. It is not possible to purchase an IDP online. More information is available at www.postoffice.co.uk/international-driving-permit.
If you are a UK citizen living within the European Union, the UK government advises that you change your driving licence for an EU licence before Brexit. You will be allowed to drive in the UK with an EU driving licence without the need for an IDP for 3 years. Information of how to exchange your licence can be found at https://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/vehicles/driving-licence/driving-licence-renewal-exchange/index_en.htm#shortcut-0-exchanging-your-licence.
Keep up-to-date with changes at www.gov.uk/driving-abroad/international-driving-permit
Do I have to change my EU number plates after Brexit?
Currently you can keep your EU number plates on your motorhome or car as long as you display a separate GB sticker. It is likely that the EU demands that UK vehicles stop displaying EU number plates.
What is and do I need a green card to drive within the EU?
Before you set off in a tour of Europe you may need a green card. A green card proves that you have the minimum insurance required by law to drive a vehicle in a foreign country. There are 47 countries worldwide that form the green card system; these are identified on an interactive map provided by the Council of Bureaux.
Currently all UK vehicle insurance provides a minimum of third-party cover to drive in the EU; this is effectively your green card. After the transition period this will change, but how is currently unknown. In May 2018 the UK and EU insurance bodies agreed to waive the requirement of physical green cards, but this has not been ratified by the EU so currently doesn’t apply. The Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB), www.mib.org.uk, are the UK issuer of green cards. They have issued guidance to UK insurance companies regarding how to issue physical green cards. Should green cards be required, they will be issued by your motorhome insurance company. Green cards will be free, but admin costs may be added by insurance companies. Your trailer, if domestic, or caravan, if it weighs over 3,500kg, may also need a green card and might need to be registered separately. See www.gov.uk/guidance/trailer-registration.
Will my vehicle insurance still be valid after Brexit?
Your vehicle insurance will still be valid, but you will need to contact your insurer in advance to notify them of your intended travel to obtain a green card, see above. The green card will provide the minimum insurance cover required, usually third-party liability, which covers costs to other parties. If you intend to enjoy an extended motorhome tour, you will need to notify your insurer of every country you intend to visit. Whether you can obtain more insurance to cover damage to your campervan, theft, and/or legal assistance will depend on the insurance company and EU/UK negotiations.
If you are unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident within the EU after Brexit, your UK-based insurer may not be able to help. According to gov.uk: ‘UK residents involved in a road accident may need to bring a claim against either the driver or the insurer of the vehicle in the EU or EEA country where the accident happened. This may involve bringing the claim in the local language. In the event of an accident in an EU or EEA country caused by an uninsured or an untraced driver, UK residents may not receive compensation if there is no EU Exit deal’. After Brexit contact your vehicle insurer before you travel to ensure you understand any procedures you should follow if you are involved in an incident within the EU. See www.gov.uk/guidance/prepare-to-drive-in-the-eu-after-brexit.
Will Low Emission Zones apply to British vehicles?
Low Emission Zones (LEZs) are increasing across Europe. Some require a sticker to be displayed in your vehicle. Remember to ensure you know where Low Emission Zones are and which LEZs you are able to travel in. On the spot fines will be issued if you get it wrong! Read all about LEZ here.
And finally, don’t panic!
In 2003 I spent a year touring full-time in a Hymer motorhome. The EU was smaller then, so I needed green cards, additional insurance and IDPs to drive in Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary. Completing the paperwork wasn’t difficult or expensive. Just consider it part of the adventure. Once you’re on your way, you’ll have a lovely time staying in the campsites or Aires.
About the author
Meli is a successful motorhomer and travel writer. As the author of numerous travel guides, including Go Motorhoming, Road Trip Europe: Go Dutch and All the Aires Spain and Portugal, she has toured Europe extensively over the last 19 years in various campervans and motorhomes. In 2018 she travelled 16,000 miles in France in a Wildax camper.
Vicarious Media is a proven travel guide publisher and retailer. Vicarious Media writes or finds and evaluates the best travel guides for campers, motorhomers, caravanners and road trippers. Established since 2006 Vicarious Media enhances thousands of road trips every year, and hopes to transform your holiday too.