Driving to Europe after Brexit?

/ News

At the time of writing, the answer to this question is, well, anyone’s guess. The European Union’s (“EU”) and the UK’s agreement to delay Brexit until 31 October 2019, and the UK’s preparations to take part in the EU elections, means a no-deal Brexit is highly unlikely to occur before 31 October. Should the UK leave the EU in a no-deal scenario on or before that date, in the absence of further guidance on the subject, UK motorists will need to ensure they obtain and carry a Green Card to drive in Europe. Meanwhile, with the summer holidays fast approaching, where does this leave you if you’re planning to take your car to Europe this year?

Deacon is part of Gallagher, who is keeping a close eye on the implications for its customers, starting with a commitment to issue insurance Green Cards to Gallagher motor policy holders for free if needed.   (  But what if you’re not a Gallagher motor policy holder?

You may want to play safe and have these documents to hand, although according to the RAC* drivers planning to take their vehicles to the EU, including the Republic of Ireland over the summer months, should not need a Green Card.

However, if you plan to travel after 31st October 2019, we encourage you to plan for a no-deal Brexit and make arrangements to get hold of one.  The good news is that it could be free and easy to obtain from your insurer.  Just be sure to plan ahead, and ideally apply a good month in advance of travelling.

What is a Green Card?

A Green Card is an international certificate of insurance providing evidence that your motor insurance policy meets minimum European standards for third party cover.  Where it is an express requirement to have one, then it must be carried with you at all times when driving overseas.  It’s an internationally recognised document and lasts a minimum of 15 days, but can be issued for longer if needed.

If you cannot show a Green Card when asked – and it must be hard copy not an electronic one – you may be accused of driving without insurance and could be subject to a fine, having your vehicle seized or prosecution.  And it’s worth noting you need one Green Card per vehicle, even if you a multi-car policy.

Of course, you could try to buy insurance locally when you arrive in the EU, but it may not be widely or easily available, and may be more expensive than UK-issued policies.  Besides, your current UK policy will already meet EU standards.

I thought my motor cover included Europe?

Under current EU law, all motor insurance issued in the EU is valid throughout the EU, as well as Norway, , Liechtenstein and Iceland (collectively known as the European Economic Area “EEA” countries) and Switzerland, and meets the minimum required standards in those countries – usually third party only.  Some insurers also extend their comprehensive cover to countries outside the UK.

It had been hoped to maintain the status quo, and an agreement between UK and European insurance authorities was struck in May 2018 to waive the need for green cards in the event of a no-deal Brexit.  However, it was not ratified by the European Commission, which is why most responsible insurers are now alerting their customers.

Do I need a Green Card if I’m hiring a vehicle overseas?

You shouldn’t need a Green Card if you’re hiring a car once you arrive overseas. The insurance that comes with it from the rental company should cover you for this – but do check. However, if you rent a car in the UK and take it to the EU then may need to carry an insurance Green Card.

You can find out more from the Association of British Insurers HERE.

Remember to give your insurer as much notice as possible before you set off as demand is likely to be high. According to the AA, around 4.7 million drivers take their cars into Europe each year, excluding commercial traffic.  You are advised to apply a month before you plan to travel.

I live in Europe, do I need a Green Card?  

If you live overseas and arrange your insurance in the UK, it’s wise to check your status with your insurer. This is another area where working with a broker, such as the Gallagher motor team, rather than trying to navigate comparison sites, can pay dividends.

If you are a UK licence holder living in the EU or EEA you should consider exchange your UK driving licence for an EU driving licence before the date of Brexit. If the UK leaves the EU without a deal on 31 October 2019, you may have to pass a driving test in the EU country you live in to be able to carry on driving there. Please note that as the Brexit dealine approaches, we expect increased demand may lead to longer processing times and delays. You can drive on your EU licence when visiting the UK. If you return to live in the UK, provided you passed your driving test in the UK or another specified country, you can exchange your EU licence for a UK licence without taking another test.

What about visas, passports, driving licenses and EHICs?

Immediately after Brexit, it is expected that UK citizens will be able to take visa-free visits to EU countries for up to 90 days within a 180-day period, and EU citizens will be able to do the same to the UK.

However, from 2021, assuming we are no longer members of the EU, Britons going to Europe on holiday may have pay €7 (£6.28) under the new EU Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS).

These electronic passes are for all visitors who previously travelled visa-free to Europe and are not specific to UK citizens.   Introduced in response to a growing terrorist threat, they will allow for short holidays in the EU and be valid for multiple trips for a period of three years.

Another potential implication of a No Deal Brexit transition is that International Driving Permits (IDPs), costing £5.50, are also likely to be needed.  Since 1 February 2019, these are only available from Post Offices and you must apply in person.

Currently, UK licence holders who live in the UK can drive in all EU and EEA countries using their UK driving licence. If you hold a UK driving licence you will not need an IDP to drive when visiting Ireland when the UK leaves the EU as Ireland does not require IDPs to be held by driving licence holders from non-EU countries.

If you are currently using a UK driving licence and live in an EU or EEA country, when the UK leaves the EU, you will not be able to use an IDP to guarantee that your UK licence will be recognised in that country. If you wish to continue to drive, you should exchange your UK licence with a local licence, where this option exists.

Under international conventions, GB is the distinguishing sign to display on UK-registered vehicles when driving outside of the UK.

Following the UK’s exit from the EU, it is recommended that you display a GB sticker on the rear of your vehicle, whether you currently have a number plate which includes the GB identifier or not.

The government has said it will seek new arrangements for EU and EEA countries to recognise UK driving licences but, until then, UK driving licence holders may need an IDP in addition to their UK driving licence.

The Country Checker at the Post Office will advise you – it currently assumes a No Deal Brexit scenario.

Regularly updated advice on preparing to drive in the EU after Brexit is available from the  Government Website.

We are already hearing anecdotally that we will need to ensure that our passports have more than six months to run before travelling to Europe but, again, there is no certainty on that. If your passport expires soon and you are concerned, make sure you leave plenty of time to apply for a new passport.

Do also contact your travel insurers to check that you are adequately covered should EHIC cover be withdrawn from UK citizens.

The Government issues regularly-updated advice for travel to over 225 countries. A few minutes spent on its web site could pay dividends.

Practical driving considerations and rules

Amidst all this, don’t forget that each country has its own specific traffic laws, conventions and penalties. Read up and be sure to comply. The RAC offers advice for driving in each EU country.

Further Information

Prepare to drive in the EU after Brexit:* https://www.rac.co.uk/insurance/brexit


The opinions and views expressed in the above articles are those of the author only and are for guidance purposes only; and all the information provided is to the best of the knowledge of the author correct at the time of publication.  The authors disclaim any liability for reliance upon those opinions and would encourage readers to rely upon more than one source before making a decision based on the information. Any links contained in this article were working at the time of publication but may not work at a future date.