When will I see EU again? Driving in the EU post Brexit

James Batchelor

30 Mar 2023

Thousands of Brits love to pack up the car, cram in the kids and head to the continent for a summer holiday or ski trip. Thousands more will use their car to travel on business, but might not have done so in the past few years because of the pandemic. Now we're open again, it's time to dust off the passport and head to the border. 

It’s something we’ve done for decades trouble-free, but with the UK having left the EU as of December 31, 2020, has anything changed? 

Well, there are some things you need to bear in mind which is why we’ve created this handy guide.

Tunnel vision - thousands of us will drive abroad in the summer (hopefully)

Will my driving licence be accepted?

Yes, is the short answer but there's a 'but'. The UK leaving the EU doesn't change anything when it comes to the validity of your driving licence. If you have a photocard licence then it’ll be accepted when driving in EU countries and you won’t need an International Driving Permit (IDP). Note, we said photocard – this is the 'but'... 

I don't have a photocard licence – is my licence still valid? 

If you don't have a photocard licence you'll therefore have a paper driving licence. While this older style of licence is still valid in the UK, it isn't in some countries of the EU and Norway. To be allowed to drive in these regions with a paper licence, you'll also need an IDP. It's worth checking which licence you have as there are some three million drivers still using a paper licence and not a photocard.​

IDP - looks like a ration book and involves queuing at the Post Office. It's the future.

Are there any other exceptions? 

Yes, there are. Along with those who have a paper licence, you'll also need an IDP if your driving licence was issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man. 

What is an IDP and how do I get one? 

Some drivers will be familiar with the IDP if they have driven in most countries outside of the EU and Norway. There are three types of IDP – '1926', '1949' and '1968'. Each one is for a different purpose and it's possible you may need more than one if you're driving through multiple countries. To check which countries need an IDP and which version, visit the 'Driving Abroad' page on gov.uk. Getting an IDP is straightforward but it may be a little alien to the Playstation generation as it involves going to a main Post Office. Not all branches do it either, so check online first. For £5.50, the Post Office will fill out a buff-coloured cardboard booklet which looks like a ration book from WWII – a 1926 or 1949 permit lasts​ for 12 months, while a 1968 will be valid for three years or until your UK driving licence expires, whichever comes first. You will need to bring along a passport-sized mugshot of yourself.​

Eurotunnel - get in training

Is my insurance valid?

Your car insurance will be valid (although it's worth checking with your insurance provider just in case) but you will need a green card from your insurance company. 

What is a green card? 

It sounds quite interesting but it isn't. Essentially it's a sheet of paper coloured – you guessed it – green. It's to prove your car is covered while driving in Europe – normally this is third-party only and doesn't match the level of cover you may have in the UK, but it's worth checking with your insurance company to see what level of cover you have.

You will need extra green cards if you're towing a trailer or caravan (one for the towing vehicle and the other for the trailer or caravan), you have multi-car or fleet insurance (one for each car on the policy), or you have two insurance policies covering your trip (one card for each policy). 

As well as being law, they're essential if you're involved in an accident or stopped by the police.

How do I get a green card?

Easy. Speak to your insurance provider and they'll either post one to you or send you one via email for you to print off. It's a good idea to contact your insurance company well before you travel as it can up to six weeks to receive a green card in the post. 

Ensure you're insured with a green card - you can download then easily

GB or UK stickers... Do I need one?

The GB Euro logo which is on millions of number plates and stickers is no longer valid. From 28 September 2021, you need a UK sticker instead of a GB on your vehicle to drive abroad. The GB letters were used from 1949 but were changed so drivers from Northern Ireland (which is part of the UK but not Great Britain) would feel included.

This means you'll need to buy a UK sticker – and remember it needs to be clearly visible. That means you shouldn’t stick one on the inside of your rear screen if it’s heavily tinted, for example. You'll be able to buy them at the port or tunnel terminal, but it will be far cheaper to get one online before you leave.

Do I need any other documentation?

For travelling in the EU, you will need your V5C logbook if you're driving your own car or a VE103 form if you're driving a hire or lease car. This form shows you have permission to drive it outside of the UK.

Anything else before I set off?

Although not Brexit-related, it's worth checking the government's Driving Abroad website to check if you need any extra equipment to be legal. Headlight-converter stickers will be needed unless you can convert the beam pattern using a switch or electronics - check your manual for more details. You may also need a first aid kit and a hi-vis jacket, for example. It’s best to buy these online well before you leave as they will be far cheaper than panic port purchases.

Nissan Leaf electric car rear badge GB or not GB? That is the question

What about charging my electric car in the EU?

The UK leaving the EU changes nothing when it comes to charging your electric car. In the EU, there will be a large number of charging points installed by companies you won't have heard of in the UK, although if you're a Tesla owner the Supercharger network is just the same as it is in the UK, only larger. 

It's worth planning your journey and researching the types of charging point providers you may come across. The type of connectors will be the same but the method of payment may be different and may require you downloading smartphone apps beforehand. Expect the instructions to be in a different language too of course, but modern smartphone apps will translate if you get stuck.

There are Tesla chargers at the Eurotunnel terminals and other chargepoints used to be offered to other electric car - but check the Eurostar website for updates and availability.

If you are planning on using a granny charger (for example, at a campsite or holiday home) you’ll need an adaptor which is up to the task of handling a high load.

What about data roaming charges?

Some of the UK's largest mobile phone operators have re-introduced roaming charges which can soon rack up if you are using date to find charge points. The best course of action is to check with your mobile phone operator rather than running the risk of racking up huge charges while using your car abroad. 

Charge with no charge at Eurotunnel. If it's working.

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