On January 1, the UK left the EU, and while our minds have been dominated by the pandemic, there have been major shifts in driving rules and regulations affecting motorists travelling abroad.
While the Government remains in two minds about whether British people will be able to travel abroad this summer, one thing is for certain, when you do arrive, there will be some important road regulations to follow.
“While there have been other things dominating the news cycle, Brexit hasn’t gone anywhere, and British drivers are likely to have almost forgotten how the UK’s withdrawal from the EU will impact their driving,” explains Keith Hawes, director of car hire company Nationwide Vehicle Contracts.
“Eventually, we will all be able to travel freely around the EEA, perhaps as soon as late summer, and while that’s something to look forward to, people should not be left unawares or unprepared when driving in Europe.”
1. UK driving licences
From January 1, most UK motorists will still be able to use their standard driving licence to drive in EU countries.
That’s because driving licences issued in the UK will still be valid when driving in EU member states.
However, there are some exemptions.
2. International Driving Permits
In some cases, an International Driving Permit (IDP) may be needed.
This permit will be required to drive in 27 EU countries, as well as Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein if you are one of 3million Brits who currently have a paper licence, not a photocard one.
IDPs also apply if your licence was issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man.
The government’s advice if you are in one of these groups is to check with the embassy of the country you are planning to drive in to see if you will need an IDP.
An IDP can be bought at Post Offices for £5.50 and last three years each.
There are two different types of IDP you might need in Europe. For France and Germany, for example, some of those people will need a 1968 IDP.
There is also a 1949 IDP, which covers visits to Andorra, for example.
If you’re caught behind the wheel in the EU or EEA without the correct IDP, you may be fined, sent to court, or even have your car confiscated.
The three IDPs required on the continent are:
- 1926 IDP – you will only need this IDP if you want to drive through or in Lichtenstein.
- 1949 IDP – required when driving in Cyprus, Iceland, Malta and Spain.
- 1968 IDP – All other EU/EEA countries require drivers to travel with a 1968 IDP
3. European insurance
Despite the Brexit vote, until January 1, 2020, insurance policies continued to offer protection to British drivers overseas as they had before 2016.
However, now that the transition period has come to an end, things have changed. Drivers will also now need a Green Card provided by their insurer when driving in Europe.
These Green Cards provide a minimum level of third-party cover in case you get into an accident.
It doesn’t matter if you have more comprehensive insurance in the UK, Green Cards do not necessarily match the level of cover that you pay for in the UK, only basic third party coverage.
Drivers should apply for Green Cards a minimum of six weeks before they are due to travel to ensure the card arrives on time.
A unique Green Card should also be registered for every wheeled vehicle in your convoy so separate green cards are needed for multiple cars, trailers and caravans.
If requested on the continent, the Green Card must be handed over in physical form, meaning drivers cannot rely on simply showing their phone.
4. New tests for expats
Before January 1, there were almost half a million UK driving licence holders living in EU member states that faced having to swap their licence or take a new test.
This is no longer the case. Any British immigrant moving to a European country from 2021 onwards will now have to sit for a test in order to drive legally while living in that country.
This is particularly likely to affect British pensioners who retire to countries such as France or Spain, who may have had decades of driving since last taking a test.
5. Can I take my leased car on holiday?
If you wish to take your lease vehicle abroad, you will need to contact your finance provider to obtain the relevant permissions before you leave for your trip.
You will need to fill in a Vehicle-on-Hire-Certificate (VE103B) form, a legal document that acts as an alternative to the V5C logbook.
The VE103B contains the details of the vehicle such as registration number, make and model and will also confirm the name and address of the person leasing the vehicle as well as the length of the contract.
6. Pack a high-vis jacket
In France, all cars must now be kitted out with a warning triangle and have a high-vis jacket stowed in case of emergency.
The French also expect all drivers to carry a breathalyser kit at all times.
This may sound pricey, but disposable breathalysers are available and it’s recommended that you carry two of these so that if one is used, you can continue on your journey with a spare
7. GB Stickers
All cars without an EU licence plate must carry a GB sticker to indicate that their car is British.
The exception is cars carrying an EU plate, which the majority of British cars produced before the Brexit period do.
British cars produced post-Brexit will carry UK plates so any car manufactured after this year will have to carry a EU sticker when travelling in Europe.
However, if you’re driving in Spain, Cyprus or Malta, the age of your car is immaterial and you’re required to present a GB sticker regardless of your number plate or the age of your car.