Driving After Brexit: Your Definitive Guide

Driving after Brexit in white on a black hatchback car

Britain has now left the EU. This means there that a whole host of new rules came into effect on the 1st January 2021, affecting both drivers and the car industry. But how is driving after Brexit going to work?

Here are all the new rules British drivers need to follow when driving in the EU. With the current travel restrictions, it’s best to also check the current Government advice, in case anything has changed.


Driving after Brexit: What you need to do differently

This advice applies to UK car drivers. For advice relating to bus and coach drivers, please click here.


Travel frequently between the UK and the EU? Why not bookmark this page so you’re always up-to-date and ready to travel?

Driving License:

Your UK driving licence is still valid in EU countries. If you have a photocard driving licence, you don’t need any additional documents to drive on short trips to most European countries. This applies to photocard driving licences with an EU flag as well. This applies until their current expiry date.

However, there are some exceptions to this rule, so please check before you travel.

If you still have a paper driving licence, or a licence issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or on the Isle of Man, you need to buy an IDP (International Driving Permit). There are three different types, costing £5.50 each. They’re available from the Post Office.

You should check which permit you need before travelling. For example, you need a 1968 IDP for France and many other European countries, but a 1949 IDP for Cyprus. If you plan on driving in more than one country, you may need to buy two types of IDP.

Here’s the Government advice on what IDP’s you need for which countries.


Various documents needed for driving after Brexit, including passport, green card and IDP


Car Insurance:

You need to buy an insurance Green Card for driving in the EU after Brexit. This includes visits to Switzerland, Serbia, Andorra or any EEA (European Economic Area).

A Green Card is an international certificate, issued by UK insurers, proving that you have the right third-party car insurance for the country you’re travelling to. It may not offer the same level of cover as your UK policy, so speak to your insurer for the full details. You need a physical copy, but you can print it off yourself.

If you need a physical copy of your Green Card sent to you, you should apply for the card as least 6 weeks before your trip. Without a Green Card, you may be refused entry to certain countries if required to show one at the border. Please note that you need an additional Green Card for any trailers or caravans you’re towing.


GB Stickers:

You will now need to display a GB car sticker for travel to most EU countries. You don’t need to display one for travel to the Republic of Ireland. For travel to Spain, Cyprus or Malta, you need a GB sticker regardless.

However, there are a few exceptions. If your number plate has GB on it, either alone or alongside the Union Flag, you won’t need to buy a separate GB sticker. If your number plate has GB alongside an EU flag, the Scottish, Welsh or English flag or numbers and letters only, you will need a GB sticker.

The RAC sell European Driving Kits, starting at £20.99. These include GB stickers alongside a First Aid Kit, Warning Triangle and other essential items. Some countries require different items by law, so check that you have everything you need before travelling.


Yellow UK licence plate on grey sports car
If your licence plate looks like either of these, you need to buy a GB sticker to keep driving in the EU after Brexit. Original photos: (above) Tim Meyer on Unsplash  (below) Rich Smith on Unsplash

white uk licence plate


Car Accidents:

For travel to any EU country, or Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, you may not be able to make a claim through your UK provider. You should expect to claim through a provider in the country of the accident. This may include claiming in the local language.

If you crash into an uninsured or untraceable driver, you may not receive any compensation at all.


To avoid an expensive accident when driving after Brexit, check out these top tips to drive safely!


Taking Pets Abroad:

The UK, including the Channel Islands and Isle of Man, became a Part 2 listed third country on 1st January 2021. This means that pet passports are no longer valid. Instead, you need an Animal Health Certificate (AHC). Here is the process for preparing your dog, cat or ferret for travel:

  1. Your pet must have a microchip
  2. It needs a vaccination against rabies – every pet must be at least 12 weeks old before it can be vaccinated
  3. You must then wait 21 days after the primary vaccination before travel
  4. To get your AHC, visit your vet around a month before your travels. If you’re travelling to the EU, you must pick up an AHC no more than 10 days before travelling.

You can find more information here.


Two husky dogs and a white and grey cat in the boot of a car driving after Brexit


There are certain other documents you must carry. All drivers must carry a Vehicle Registration Document (V5C Logbook). As this isn’t available for hire/lease cars, you must obtain a Vehicle on Hire Certificate (VE103). This applies for all travel under 12 months long.

Travel to EU countries is Visa-free for 90 days in any 180 day period. This means most trips to the EU still remain Visa-free. If you plan on travelling to the EU for several months, or permanently, you will need to secure a Visa. Additionally, your passport must still have 6 months’ validity on the day of travel. You might need to apply for a new passport sooner than planned. Please be aware that passport renewals are taking longer than normal currently.

Finally, the UK’s access to the EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) is being reduced, although any cards issued before the end of 2020 are still valid until their expiry date. The Government has announced a similar replacement card (the UK Global Health Insurance Card, or GHIC), but details are scarce. The current advice recommends that you buy travel insurance with health cover for any trip. EU citizens living in the UK still have access to the NHS as normal.


Those are all the changes to driving after Brexit. It’s a lot to contend with for every driver, but don’t let your European road trip plans die as a result. If you start planning well in advance, driving holidays can still be a success.

All the Brexit uncertainties affected the car industry as well. The UK has always been a big exporter, and, in2018, we were worried that things would change for the worse. So, how will Brexit affect the UK car industry now that we have officially left for good?


Driving after Brexit: How will it affect the car industry?

A No-Deal Brexit would have been disastrous. Several reports suggested a No-Deal Brexit would cost the car industry £55 billion within 5 years! This is because the UK exports 8 out of every 10 cars produced; 54.8% of which are to EU countries. In 2019 alone, we built over 1 million cars for export.

If there had been a 10% tariff, as we and many others feared, the price of new vehicles would have risen by £1.8 billion overall.

Fortunately, a tariff-free trade agreement reduces many of the concerns. People and equipment can still move freely between the UK and the EU, reducing a lot of potential costs:

  • 18.7p per litre of fuel = no longer forecast
  • Expensive car insurance premiums = negated with the Green Card situation
  • SMMT predicting £1,500 – £2,000 to each new car = gone

Of course, more paperwork will still increase delays. Nevertheless, the agreement reached on Christmas Eve is a big boost to the struggling UK car industry. With this deal, building cars in the UK is still profitable for foreign companies.

Unfortunately, there have already been many high-profile casualties.


cars and lorries driving on a motorway
With the trade agreement, lorries can still move freely between the UK and the EU – a big boost to the car industry.

The companies already pulling out of the UK over Brexit fears

  • Ford – closed Bridgend factory; 1,700 jobs lost
  • Nissan – abandoned plans for new X-Trail; 741 jobs lost
  • Honda – closing Swindon plant in 2022. Might this now stay open?
  • Jaguar Land Rover – 4,500 jobs cut in 2020
  • Rolls-Royce
  • Michelin
  • Schaeffler (automotive parts)
  • Vauxhall – Astra production moved from Ellsemere Port to Germany
  • Toyota – cited No-Deal fears as a reason for job instability

Hopefully, this deal will avoid more casualties in the coming months. Greater certainty over Brexit, and a Coronavirus vaccine, will help the growth of the UK car industry in 2021 and beyond. Some good news to start the year!



Driving after Brexit will change significantly. Here are the three most important things to remember:

  • You will need to display a GB sticker, or GB licence plate with the Union Flag on it
  • A photocard driving licence is valid in most countries; a paper licence requires an IDP
  • You need a Green Card for your vehicle and any trailers or caravans, which can take up to 6 weeks to arrive
Drew Hickman

Drew Hickman

Drew works for BookMyGarage writing blogs, website content and almost everything else in between. He works closely with ex-mechanics and subject matter experts. When he’s not helping you save money on running your car or making your driving life easier, he can be found either with his head in a book or with a golf club in his hands (usually looking for his ball in the woods)