United Kingdom flag and European Union flag

Driving in Europe after Brexit need-to-knows

Much is still up in the air about Brexit, but if you'll be motoring in Europe on or after Friday 29 March, there are some important checks you need to start making sooner rather than later.

If there's a deal it's likely there will be a transition period to the end of 2020, during which things will largely continue as they are now, but if there's no deal you may need a driving permit and, if you're taking your own car abroad, a green card and bumper sticker.

Of course no one knows what's going to happen, but given some of the no-deal driving preparation can take up to four weeks, it's better to plan ahead now so you're ready just in case. Here are the extra checks you will need to do to be ready for a no deal:

1. You'll need a driving permit if you're taking your own car or hiring

As things stand, those with a UK driving licence can drive in the EU without needing any extra documentation.

In the event of a no deal, the Government has said it will try and reach separate agreements with individual countries, but it is very unlikely this will be done by 29 March.

So if you'll be driving in Europe on or after the 29 March, and a deal hasn't been struck before you set off, you will want to get an International Driving Permit (IDP) to ensure your UK driving licence will be recognised in the country you're driving in. There are three types, which cost £5.50 each:

The 1926 IDP – to drive in Liechtenstein, valid for 12 months.  
The 1949 IDP – to drive in Spain, Iceland, Malta and Cyprus, valid for 12 months.
The 1968 IDP – to drive in all other EU countries as well as Norway and Switzerland, valid for three years.

If you're driving through countries which require different types of IDP – for example, both France and Spain – you'd need to get both the 1949 and 1968 permits, so you'd pay £11.

It's worth noting that the Republic of Ireland doesn't ask drivers to carry IDPs.

How long will it take? 1 Day. IDPs are available over the counter from 2,500 Post Office branches across the country (find your nearest branch via the Post Office website). It takes only five minutes or so to obtain an IDP, so you can get it in a single visit, but you need to have it before you travel.

2. If you're taking your own car, you'll need to ask your insurer for a free 'green card '

Currently you don't need an insurance 'green card', which proves that your UK car insurance policy provides minimum third-party cover, to drive a UK-registered vehicle in other EU and European Economic Area (EEA) countries, or in Andorra, Serbia and Switzerland.

But if we leave the EU without a deal, you'll need a physical copy of a 'green card' to be able to take a car insured in the UK to the EU and EEA. These are issued by insurance providers, and all the ones we spoke to said they would do this for free.

How long will it take? Up to four weeks. If you need a green card, contact your insurer. As they're free, you can request one to be on the safe side and not use it if a deal is agreed.

  • 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 Yes Up to five days Phone the customer service helpline on 0345 045 1000
    LV Yes Up to four days (3) Email greencard@lv.com 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 056 9173, 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.

3. If you're taking your own car you'll need to display a GB sticker

At present, if the number plates on your car have the EU symbol and the Great Britain (GB) national identifier on them, you don't need to display a 'GB' sticker on your car while driving in other EU countries.

But if we leave without a deal, you'll need to display a 'GB' sticker (even if your car has number plates with an EU symbol and GB identifier on).

How long does it take? Up to five days. It can take up to five days to get a GB sticker or magnetic plate delivered from the likes of the RAC and Halfords*, but you can also buy these in stores – see Do you need to display a GB sticker? for the required specifications.

4. Driving outside of Europe? You may need a different kind of permit – regardless of what happens with Brexit

If you're driving outside of the EU, the type of IDP you need may also change.

From 28 March 2019, some countries – such as the Bahamas, Brazil and Cuba – will stop accepting the 1926 and 1949 IDPs. These changes will take effect no matter what happens with Brexit. For other countries – such as the USA – nothing will change.

You can check which IDP you will need on the Government website.

How long will it take? 1 Day. As above, IDPs are available over the counter from 2,500 Post Office branches across the country (find your nearest branch via the Post Office website).

What to read next...

Regardless of Brexit, if you're planning on driving in Europe at any time, check if you need:

For more on what Brexit means for finances, travel etc, see our 25 Brexit need-to-knows. For full help on motoring in the EU, check out Driving in Europe.