Driving in Europe after Brexit

British drivers visiting Europe should bear in mind the new government changes that will come into effect post-Brexit. Read on to find out how driving in Europe will change.

John Ellmore 13 November 2020

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Driving in Europe after Brexit is a hot topic. Owing to the changes that will come into play in 2021 there is an understandable confusion among motorists. However, this should not be mistaken as a cue for drivers to give up European roads entirely.

With that said, we thought we’d write a guide (based on the correct government advice on January 20th 2020) on how best UK citizens can navigate driving in Europe post-Brexit.

European breakdown cover

As it is currently, drivers will need European breakdown cover when they’re driving in Europe post Brexit. UK breakdown cover is not valid for European travel.

Having European breakdown cover means you will be covered if your vehicle breaks down in Europe, meaning your car could be fixed at the side of the road, or in a garage if you’re having trouble.

Read our guide on what you need to know about European breakdown cover for more information.

International Permits

As well as a UK driving licence, motorists may be expected to have an International Driving Permit (IDP) to continue driving legally in some EU states following the end of the transition period in December 2020. You can apply for an IDP from a Post Office branch.

There are two different types of IDP that each apply to different countries- the 1949 and the 1968 permit. It is essential British drivers attain the right IDP for the EU country they are visiting. For the latest updates and restrictions on this matter, the GOV.UK website is a useful resource.

The price of an IDP is £5.50. If you are driving through multiple countries with different IDP requirements you would have to buy both the 1949 and the 1968 versions of IDPs at the cost of £11.

Green Cards

Not to be confused with the American immigration system, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) strongly recommends all British drivers passing through EU states bring a physical copy of a Green Card- an international certificate of insurance provided by UK insurers proving the motorist has the required insurance for that country.

Many European insurance authorities have actually stated that they will not require a green card post-Brexit, though this is yet to be confirmed by the European Commission. Therefore, they could come in useful if the regulations change.

It’s worth noting that these so-called green cards are not actually cards but paper documents that are legally required to be printed on green paper.

To obtain one, drivers should phone their vehicle insurer who may provide one free of charge or upon payment of a small administration fee. If drivers are towing another vehicle, they should apply for a second one.

Advice from the ABI recommends applying for one at least a month before you travel. Green Cards are normally valid for 90 days.


In November 2018 the government published advice for pet owners wishing to take their animals on a trip with them.

Though the rules for taking your pet to any EU country are yet to change, they could be significantly altered in 2021 if the UK is categorised as ‘unlisted’.

If this is to be the case, pet owners should arrange their trip up to four months in advance. That’s according to government advice.

In their five points of reference and actions for would-be holidaymakers and pet owners, they would be required to follow all of the guidelines should they visit an EU country post-Brexit.

For your convenience, we have paraphrased all five reference points below.

  • Pet owners must have their dog, cat or ferret microchipped and vaccinated from the threat of rabies before travelling. Your pet must also have a blood sample taken 30 days after its last rabies vaccination. In some cases, your vet may also recommend a booster rabies vaccination beforehand.
  • Your vet must send the pet’s blood sample to an EU-endorsed blood testing laboratory.
  • The results of the bloods must prove the vaccination was successful. This will mean a rabies antibody level of at least 0.5 IU/ml.
  • You must then wait three months from the date of the sample before you can travel abroad with your pets.
  • You must also visit an Official Veterinarian (OV) no later than 10 days before you travel to get a health certificate for your pet.

Nationals already living in Europe

The government has recommended that all UK nationals exchange their UK driving licence for a local EU licence before the transitionary period finishes.

It may be that some UK nationals will require another driving test in their EU state of residence. This could mean a UK driving licence in Europe post-Brexit may not hold up.

People will still be allowed to drive in the UK with the EU licence, though if UK nationals return permanently to the UK and had previously passed their driving test in Britain, they will be able to exchange their EU licence for a UK one without the need for another practical assessment.

Claiming on your insurance

Pre-Brexit, your car insurance provider would have dealt with the other driver involved in case of an accident. If they refused, you would have turned to the Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB).

However, if a no-deal situation occurs following the year-long transition, neither will be required to help you. UK residents will likely have to bring a claim against the driver or the insurer instead.

If this Brexit outcome happens, make sure you contact your insurance company before you leave. Doing this will ensure you know in advance whether they will contact the driver’s insurance company should an incident occur.

If the accident is caused by an uninsured or an untraced driver, UK drivers may not even receive the necessary compensation. To guard against this, it’s well worth discussing these kinds of matters with your insurer before travelling.

GB Stickers

Following the Brexit transition period, UK-registered cars will have to display a GB sticker when driving in all 27 EU countries.

Even if drivers have the GB initials on their number plate, they will still be required to display the sticker.

On Hire Certificate

All UK motorists driving on European roads in a UK registered vehicle will be required to take their log book (V5C).

However, if your vehicle is hired or leased, you will need a VE103 Vehicle on Hire Certificate.

Compare European breakdown cover

Single and annual trip policies can be found in seconds. Here you will find single trip European breakdown cover and multi-trip European breakdown policy where you can compare a range of cost-saving deals and have sound peace of mind on your next European trip.

About the author:

John Ellmore is a director of NerdWallet UK and is a company spokesperson for consumer finance issues. John is committed to providing clear, accurate and transparent financial information. Read more

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