Driving in the EU after Brexit: from green cards to international driving permits, all you need to know about taking a car to Europe in 2021

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The Brexit transition period as the UK leaves the EU is coming to an end and after months of negotiations, a clearer picture of what that means for all of us is emerging.

Brexit will have an impact on many aspects of our daily lives, including driving in Europe whether for holidays or for work.

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However, until recently it has been unclear what the differences will be, from confusion over international driving permits and licence validity to questions over insurance.

Here is what British and Northern Irish drivers need to know about taking a vehicle to the EU from January 1, 2021.

Is my driving licence still valid in Europe and will I need an international driving permit?

If you have a full driving licence issued in Great Britain or Northern Ireland, you will still be permitted to drive in the EU (and Norway) from January 1, 2021. You must take the physical licence with you if you plan to drive abroad.

In most cases, you will not require an international driving permit (IDP) to drive in the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein if your visit is less than 90 days (30 in Cyprus).

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It had previously been thought that UK motorists may have had to carry one or more IDPs while driving in Europe but the latest agreement between the UK and EU has waived that requirement for most people.

However, if you only have a paper driving licence or a licence issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man, you will need to apply for the relevant IDP. Different countries require different IDPs and you can check which permit or permits you need on the Government website.

You can get an IDP over the counter at the Post Office, at a cost of £5.50 per permit.

In most instances you will not need an IDP for short trips to Europe (Photo: Shutterstock)In most instances you will not need an IDP for short trips to Europe (Photo: Shutterstock)
In most instances you will not need an IDP for short trips to Europe (Photo: Shutterstock)

Insurance Green Cards

One aspect of driving abroad which will change from January 1, 2021 is the requirement to carry an insurance Green Card if you are travelling in the EU, EEA, Switzerland, Serbia or Andorra.

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This is a certificate issued by your insurer proving that you have insurance in place for driving overseas. Most UK insurance policies already provide some cover (often only third party) but you must now request a Green Card from your insurer and keep a physical copy with you in the vehicle as proof.

If your insurer emails you a digital certificate, you must print it out before travelling abroad. Failure to produce a green card if asked could result in a fine, you being refused entry to a country or even having your car seized.

If you are towing a trailer or caravan you will need a separate Green Card for your car and the trailer or caravan.

Green Cards are valid for 90 days and with an expected surge in demand for them, drivers are advised to apply well in advance of any trip.

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Other documentation

Along with your licence and insurance green card, there are other documents you must carry with you if driving in the EU.

If you own the vehicle you are using, you should take your vehicle’s V5C logbook and insurance certificate but be sure to keep these secure.

If you are taking a car which you have hired or leased in the UK, you will need to complete a VE103 form and carry it with you.

GB stickers will be required for more vehicles (Photo: Shutterstock)GB stickers will be required for more vehicles (Photo: Shutterstock)
GB stickers will be required for more vehicles (Photo: Shutterstock)

If you are hiring a car overseas, you will need to produce your driving licence and may be asked by the hire company to provide a DVLA licence check. This can be done up to 21 days before your trip.

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In some circumstances you must also display a GB sticker on your vehicle from January 1.

This is the case if your number plate has any of the following:

  • a Euro symbol
  • a national flag of England, Scotland or Wales
  • numbers and letters only - no flag or identifier