Fleets and drivers are being urged to think ahead about what documentation is needed when taking a vehicle abroad following the publication of further guidance by the government ahead of the UK’s departure from the European Union on March 29.
With a no-deal Brexit seemingly a distinct possibility, drivers from the UK will need extra documentation to drive in the European Union and the European Economic Area*.
As Prime Minister Theresa May continues negotiations with the European Union in an attempt to secure a departure deal, the Department for Transport has published information on:
- Driving licence requirements and International Driving Permits
- Vehicle number plates and national identifiers (eg: a GB sign and a European Union flag)
- Vehicle registration documents
- Vehicle insurance requirements and Green Cards
- Road traffic crashes in the European Union involving UK residents and European Union drivers visiting or living in the UK after Brexit.
With Easter (April 19-22) on the near-horizon when many people living in the UK may be driving in Europe and summer holidays to come, the call to ‘think ahead’ comes from the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association.
Chief executive Gerry Keaney said: “We must do all we can to protect drivers from inadvertently falling foul of the rules, by making sure that they are kept well-informed about what documentation is required when taking a vehicle abroad.”
Driving licence requirements and International Driving Permits
Currently UK driving licence holders who live in the UK can drive in all European Union and European Economic Area countries using their UK driving licence. Should a European Union exit deal in the run-up to the UK’s departure date on March 29 be agreed that arrangement will continue.
What’s more, in the event that there is no European Union exit deal, the government has said that it would seek to put in place new arrangements for European Union and European Economic Area countries to recognise UK driving licences when people were visiting, for example on holiday or business trips.
However, in the interim from March 29, in the event of a no deal departure, an International Driving Permit in addition to a UK driving licence may be required to drive when visiting European Union and European Economic Area countries.
Currently, UK licence holders who live in the UK only require an International Driving Permit in addition to their UK driving licence to drive in some countries outside of the European Union and European Economic Area.
The UK currently issues two types of International Driving Permit to UK licence holders who are resident in the UK: the 1926 International Driving Permit and the 1949 International Driving Permit. But, from March 28, 2019 the UK will issue a third type of International Driving Permit: the 1968 International Driving Permit. At the same time, the type of International Driving Permit that some countries recognise will change.
To further complicate matters, the type of International Driving Permit required depends on the country/countries driving in.
Countries that are party to the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic will no longer recognise 1926 and 1949 International Driving Permits issued by the UK. Instead a 1968 International Driving Permit may be required to drive in those countries. However, countries that have ratified a road traffic convention are not obliged to require visiting foreign drivers to carry an International Driving Permit. So, in some countries it may be possible to drive with a UK driving licence without an International Driving Permit.
The Department for Transport in its guidance said it was important for UK drivers to “check which type of International Driving Permit was needed to ensure the correct documentation for travels”.
Furthermore, International Driving Permits are no longer available by post from motoring organisations in addition to 65 Post Offices. Now they are only available in person from 2,500 Post Offices and are a likely requirement if the UK leaves the European Union without a deal. An International Driving Permit costs £5.50.
The AA has warned that without a postal application service, companies with numerous drivers heading overseas may need to queue and wait alongside other Post Office customers.
It also means that drivers who forget to apply for their International Driving Permit before their trip cannot be sent one whilst on holiday if stopped by local police. Varying from nation to nation, said the AA, drivers could pick up a fine for not having an International Driving and Permit and vehicle insurance could be invalidated if involved in a crash.
The AA said: “While Brexit negotiations continue, European Union countries have not determined if they will accept a British licence in its current form. Therefore, the Government is recommending drivers apply for an International Driving Permit.”
Each European Union and European Economic Area country will decide if they require a foreign driver to have an International Driving Permit, in addition to a driving licence, to legally drive in their country.
In some circumstances UK residents may need more than one International Driving Permit depending on how many countries they are planning to drive through. For example, when driving through France a 1968 International Driving Permit is required but in Spain a 1949 International Driving Permit is needed. Information on which International Driving Permit is required on a country-by-country basis is available at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/international-driving-permits-for-uk-drivers-from-28-march-2019#contents
UK driving licence holders should not need an International Driving Permit to drive in Ireland from March 29, 2019. That’s because Ireland does not currently require International Driving Permits to be held by driving licence holders from non-European Union countries.
Additionally, people currently using a UK driving licence and who live in a European Union or European Economic Area country, from March 29, 2019 cannot use an International Driving Permit to guarantee that their UK licence will be recognised in that country. Therefore, if wishing to continue to drive, they should exchange their UK licence with a local licence, where that option exists.
While the UK is a member of the European Union, UK driving licences are directly exchangeable for European Union or European Economic Area country licences. However, from March 29, in the event that there is no exit deal, licence exchange arrangement will stop. Instead people will need to re-take their driving test in the European Union country where they live to be able to carry on driving there. If exchanging a licence, people will be able to re-gain their UK licence on returning to live in the UK, provided they passed their driving test in the UK or a designated country.
The government said: “People should consider exchanging their UK driving licence for a European Union driving licence as soon as possible. Increased demand may lead to longer processing times and delays to exchanging driving licences the closer it is to March 29, 2019.”
Finally, when the UK ratifies the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, arrangements will also change in some countries outside of the European Union and European Economic Area meaning that one of the three International Driving Permits will be required.
*The European Union countries are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK. The European Economic Area countries include European Union countries and also Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
Vehicle number plates and national identifiers
Under international conventions, GB is the distinguishing sign to display on UK-registered vehicles when driving outside of the UK, including in the European Union and European Economic Area.
The AA is advising that many UK drivers may have to purchase GB stickers as their Euro-style ‘GB’ vehicle number plates may not be recognised under a no-deal Brexit.
However, drivers will not need a GB sticker to drive outside the UK if they replace a Euro-plate with a number plate that features the GB sign without the European Union flag.
Vehicle registration documents
In the event of a no-deal Brexit vehicle registration documents are required to be carried when driving abroad.
That means either a vehicle’s log book (V5C) or drivers of leased and rented vehicles have an obligation to obtain a VE103 certificate from their hire or lease company before taking their vehicle overseas.
Both the V5C and the VE103 are essential documentation that proves drivers have permission to drive the vehicle. Without that documentation, drivers could be subject to delays at the border, or in the worst instance, have their vehicle impounded.
Vehicle insurance requirements and Green Cards
The Association of British Insurers has urged drivers to contact their insurer for a Green Card – an international certificate of insurance – and take it with them if they wish to drive their vehicle in the European Union, the European Economic Area and some other countries (Andorra, Serbia and Switzerland) in the event of no-deal Brexit.
Green Cards will be required under regulations as proof of insurance. Those who travel without one may be breaking the law, which applies to both businesses and individuals. The same requirements will apply to European Union motorists travelling to the UK.
Although an agreement between the relevant European insurance authorities was made in May 2018 to waive the need for Green Cards in the event of a no deal Brexit, it has not been confirmed by the European Commission, hence the industry is planning on the basis of Green Cards being required.
Further information is available at: https://www.abi.org.uk/products-and-issues/choosing-the-right-insurance/motor-insurance/travelling-to-the-eu-if-a-no-deal-brexit/
Road traffic crashes in the European Union involving UK residents and European Union drivers visiting or living in the UK
In the event that there is no-deal, from March 29 UK residents involved in a road traffic crash in a European Union or European Economic Area country should not expect to be able to make a claim in respect of that incident via a UK-based Claims Representative or the UK Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB).
Instead, UK residents involved in a road crash may need to bring a claim against either the driver or the insurer of the vehicle in the European Union or European Economic Area country where the incident happened. That may involve bringing the claim in the local language.
In the event of an accident in a European Union or European Economic Area country caused by an uninsured or an untraced driver, UK residents may not receive compensation if there is no-deal. That, said the Department for Transport, would vary from country to country.
If involved in a road traffic crash in a European Union or European Economic Area country before March 29, 2019, drivers may need to bring legal proceedings in the UK against either the insurer or the MIB before that date. After that date, drivers may need to bring legal proceedings against either the responsible driver or the insurer of the vehicle in the European Union or European Economic Area instead.