Driving in the EU after Brexit: what you need to know

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Driving in the EU after Brexit European Union sign

There are several new rules and regulations to consider now that Britain has exited the EU, Top Gear expert Paul Horrell explains what you should look out for

Taking your car to the continent has been, for the past few decades, almost trivially easy. But now that the UK has stepped across the Brexit threshold, it’s gotten a little more complicated.

Read on to find out the new things you should check before taking your car to the EU (plus Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein) in 2021 and beyond, and where you can find up-to-date information on the new requirements. 

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Visas, passports, tickets and permits 

Driving in the EU after Brexit UK visa

You don’t need a visa if you’re on holiday and in Europe for less than 90 days. But you do need to have at least six months – but no longer than 10 years – remaining on your passport.  Some EU states now require an international driving permit (IDP) but only if you still carry a paper license or your license was issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man. Otherwise and IDP will not be necessary, you can find out more about IDPs in Europe here.

Your car's paperwork

Let’s get the easiest step out of the way: the car must wear a UK sticker, whereas in the past an EU number plate would do. Further to this, GB number car stickers are no longer valid and must now be removed in place of a UK one. You also need to show that the car’s owner has given permission for the trip. If it’s yours, carry your V5C logbook. If it’s leased or hired, get a VE103 ‘vehicle on hire’ certificate from the BVLRA or RAC by filling in an online form and sending them a letter of authorisation from the legal owner, plus a small fee.

Insurance for you 

In the past, UK residents have been part of the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) scheme, granting the right to emergency state-provided healthcare across the Union (although not repatriation and so on, so you still should've had insurance). But now, insurance is vital, and likely to be more expensive. Be sure to buy cover carefully – while the EHIC covered pre-existing conditions or pregnancy, most conventional travel health policies don’t. Or apply for the EHIC’s new post-Brexit replacement the UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) which covers health insurance in the EU.

Insurance for your car

Driving in the EU after Brexit man on phone

You’ll be required to carry your certificate of insurance, plus a green card – it’s green but not cardboard – issued by your insurer to show you have third-party cover for the countries you’re visiting. Most European countries have said they won’t enforce this, but that hasn’t been confirmed by the European Commission. You need a green card for a trailer or caravan, too. They take up to four weeks to come from insurers and, as with any of these documents, extra demand around these New Year changes might push waiting times up. 

It also goes without saying – but we’ll say it anyway – that you should ensure that your breakdown and vehicle repatriation cover explicitly extends to all the countries you will be visiting. 

Hiring a car

Not much has changed regarding hiring a car while abroad in the EU since Brexit. In actual fact hiring in the EU is easier in some ways than bringing your own car with you (e.g. when hiring a car you are not required to have a green card). There are, however, a few exceptions to this rule, hire companies each have different rules when it comes to multi-stop trips in different countries across the EU for example, so it’s important to communicate early with your hire provider to ensure there are no sticking points when it comes to your onward journey.

The usual extras 

One thing is for certain: you need the same accessories you always have – headlamp beam converters if your car needs them (some modern lights allow you to modify the beam by a switch), bulb kit, high-vis tabards, warning triangle and, for France, breath-alcohol testers. I admit I’ve often hurriedly bought that lot at the Eurotunnel terminal or on the ferry, because you could cross the Channel with little preparation and almost zero notice. That’s now changed.

Pets and phones

Driving in the EU after Brexit dog sleeping

The pet passport scheme has now ended. Your dog, your cat or your ferret needs at least four months’ worth of preparations including a rabies vaccination. Additionally, the current mobile phone roaming agreement, where you pay the UK cost for calls and data when you’re away, has also now ended. Major UK networks have said they will continue in the same way – but check with your provider to avoid a possible bill shock. 

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Need to know more? 

Find out more about driving in the EU after Brexit by visiting the government portal.

Photos: Getty Images

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