21 September 2018

UK driving licence 'not valid' when driving abroad in a 'no-deal' Brexit

A UK driving licence 'may no longer be valid' when driving in European Union countries in the event of a 'no-deal' Brexit, the government has warned.

The government has published a series of 'what if' explanatory papers and technical notices on a wide range of issues should the government fail to negotiate a Brexit deal with the European Union before the 29 March, 2019 deadline for the UK's departure.

Among the 'no Brexit deal' papers are 'Driving in the European Union', 'Reporting CO2 Emissions for New Cars and Vans' and 'Vehicle Type Approval'.

The papers were accompanied by an announcement that "a scenario in which the UK leaves the European Union without agreement (a 'no-deal' scenario) remains unlikely given the mutual interests of the UK and the European Union in securing a negotiated outcome".

The government announcement continued: "Negotiations are progressing well and both we and the European Union continue to work hard to seek a positive deal. However, it's our duty as a responsible government to prepare for all eventualities, including 'no-deal', until we can be certain of the outcome of those negotiations.

"It has always been the case that as we get nearer to March 2019, preparations for a 'no-deal' scenario would have to be accelerated. Such an acceleration does not reflect an increased likelihood of a 'no-deal' outcome. Rather it is about ensuring our plans are in place in the unlikely scenario that they need to be relied upon."

Currently, a UK driving licence is valid in the European Union. However, once the UK leaves the European Union on 29 March, 2019 in the event of a 'no-deal' Brexit UK drivers may have to obtain an International Driving Permit if they want to drive in a European Union member state.

To further complicate the issue, the government warns that there are different types of International Driving Permit and which one would be needed varies from country to country. Drivers that do not have the correct International Driving Permit could be turned away at the border or face other enforcement action, for example a fine. Furthermore, an International Driving Permit may also be required if hiring a vehicle abroad.

Additionally, an International Driving Permit is valid for either 12 months (if the country is a signatory to the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic) of for three years, or for however long a driving licence is valid, if that date is earlier (if the country is a signatory to the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic).

The UK ratified the 1968 Convention earlier this year, as part of its European Union exit preparations. It will come into force for the UK on 28 March, 2019 meaning that a UK issued 1968 Convention International Driving Permit would be recognised in almost all European Union countries, plus Norway and Switzerland. Meanwhile, after 28 March, 2019 in the European Union, a UK issued 1949 Convention International Driving Permit would be recognised in Ireland, Spain, Malta and Cyprus.

After March 2019, if visiting and driving in a European Union Country both a UK driving licence and the appropriate International Driving Permit will be required. If driving in European Union countries covered by the different Conventions, for example France and Spain, both types of International Driving Permit would be required.

An International Driving Permit costs £5.50. From 1 February, 2019, the government will begin providing both types of International Driving Permit through 2,500 Post Offices. International Driving Permits are currently available at around 90 Post Offices or by mail order from two private companies. The mail order service will stop on 31 January, 2019.

Meanwhile, referencing the 'Reporting of CO2 Emissions for New Cars and Van' post-29 March, 2019 in the event of a 'no-deal' Brexit, the UK would cease to be government by European Union regulations. Instead, the Department for Transport would set, for example, specific CO2 emission reduction targets and detail how fines would be levied on manufacturers that breached those targets. However, they are likely to be aligned with European Union targets and fines.

Finally, on 'Vehicle Type Approval' post-29 March, 2019 in the event of a 'no-deal' Brexit, the contingency plans the Department for Transport and the Vehicle Certification Agency would implement apply to vehicle component manufacturers with fleet operators and motorists "not affected" by the plans, which would "not apply to vehicles currently on the road".

The paper, which outlines a UK-type approval process as European type approvals would no longer be valid, says: "Type-approval only applies to manufacturers. For motorists and fleet operators, a 'no-deal' scenario would not prevent them from driving cars they own or may buy either in the UK or abroad."

Each of the three papers are available at: