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Driving to Europe after Brexit? Here's when you'll need to ask your insurer for a green card

Some major insurers have told they've started issuing 'green cards' to motorists who want to drive in the EU in case of a no-deal Brexit – but one big name isn't yet providing them. Here's how to apply and how long each insurer will take to send them.

The UK is set to leave the European Union on 29 March – and if it does so without a deal, motorists who want to use their vehicles on the Continent or cross the Irish border by road will need to request a 'green card'.

This is essentially an international insurance certificate that proves your policy provides the minimum legal cover.

Some insurers have already begun issuing green cards to customers who request them.

But Saga has told MoneySavingExpert that it only intends to start doing this by the end of next week if a deal isn't confirmed. Other insurers are warning you may need to ask for a green card four weeks before you travel.

Direct Line Group, which includes Churchill and Privilege, says it's automatically issuing green cards to those who upgrade their insurance cover – but any customers that aren't extending their cover will have to give it two weeks' notice.

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 – but the agreement has not yet been passed into law by the European Commission, the arm of the EU responsible for proposing legislation, and the ABI says there's "no sign" it will be approved by the time we're set to leave the EU.

For a full rundown of the likely practical impact of Brexit – based on what we know at the moment – see our 25 Brexit need-to-knows.

Who needs a green card?

If Britain leaves the EU without agreeing a deal and you then take your vehicle to an EU country, or to Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway, you'll need a green card if you plan to use your UK insurance.

You shouldn't need a green card if you're just hiring a car. If you rent a vehicle abroad then the insurance that comes with it from the rental company should cover you.

However, if you rent a car in the UK for use in the EU or the European Economic Area, in the event of a no-deal Brexit you would need to have a green card.

When should I apply for a green card?

We don't yet know for certain whether motorists will need a green card after Brexit – if a deal is agreed, or the European Commission agrees to waive checks on UK cars' proof of insurance, motorists may be able to carry on driving in Europe as usual.

If you're planning to drive in Europe soon after the planned 29 March leaving date, it's worth sorting it out sooner rather than later (even if your insurer says it'll only take a few days).

All the insurers we asked said they would issue green cards for free to anyone who held a car insurance policy with them, and confirmed that the green card would cover all drivers named on the policy.

As the cards are free, you can request one and simply not use it if a deal is agreed.

Here's how to apply, and how long your green card will take from each insurer:

Insurers' policies on issuing green cards

Insurer Currently issuing green cards? How long will it take to arrive? How to request a green card
Admiral (1) Yes Two weeks Phone the dedicated green card number, or the customer service helpline on 0333 220 2000
Age Co (2) Yes Four weeks Phone the customer service helpline on 0345 601 6685
Aviva Yes Four weeks Phone the customer service helpline on 0345 030 8651
Churchill Will send automatically if you're upgrading your cover – otherwise you must contact it Two weeks Phone the customer service helpline on 0345 603 3551
Co-op Yes Five days – but it recommends customers request the card "as soon as they are aware of their intention to drive abroad" Phone the customer service helpline on 03457 46 46 46
Direct Line Will send automatically if you're upgrading your cover – otherwise you must contact it Two weeks Phone the customer service helpline on 0345 246 3761
Esure Waiting to hear Waiting to hear Waiting to hear
LV Yes Up to four days (3) Email with your policy number, registration and the countries you're visiting
More Than Yes At least three weeks Phone the customer service helpline on 0330 100 0593
Privilege Will send automatically if you're upgrading your cover – otherwise you must contact it Two weeks Phone the customer service helpline on 0345 246 8539
Saga No – but says it will start if a deal isn't confirmed "by the end of next week" At least six working days  Call 0800 302 9735, or contact Saga via email or post

(1) Includes Admiral, Bell, Diamond, Elephant and Gladiator, but customers will need to contact each of these firms directly. (2) Age Co Car Insurance is Age UK's product and services firm. (3) It's prepared within 48 hours and then posted first class.

What if I drive without a green card?

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has warned that you may be breaking the law if you drive in the EU without a green card in the event of a no-deal Brexit, as you won't be able to prove you have insurance.

This means you could be fined, have your vehicle seized or even be prosecuted.

Alternatively, you'll need to buy insurance locally while you are travelling – but this may not be available and could be more expensive.

What do insurers say?

A Saga spokesperson said: "We're not issuing green cards yet, but have everything ready to start over the next couple of weeks if nothing is clarified in the interim just to ensure they have one if they need it.

"We appreciate drivers will not want to wait until just before their trip, so in the meantime if customers are planning to drive abroad, we're taking their details and informing them of the above."

A spokesperson for Direct Line said: "Where customers need to upgrade their cover (eg, they wish to extend their comprehensive UK cover to a trip to France) then we are issuing green cards already.

"Where customers wish to travel with just the legal minimum cover, or in a few other situations, we are developing customer communications and processes so that customers can get the documentation they need in time for their journey in the event of a no deal Brexit."

ABI director general Huw Evans said: "As it looks increasingly possible that a 'no-deal' Brexit may happen, we want all insurance customers to know the facts about what this means for them.

"If you live in Northern Ireland and drive to the Republic of Ireland, or if you plan to drive your vehicle to mainland Europe after a no-deal Brexit, you will need a green card to prove you are insured. You should contact your insurer before you travel in order to get one."

What to read next...

For more tips on car insurance and driving after Brexit, see:

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