Brexit and your driving licence

Carlton Boyce / 15 January 2019 ( 25 April 2019 )

Will the UK driving licence be accepted in the EU after Brexit?

I know that you, like me, are probably fed up with listening to doom-and-gloom stories about Brexit. However, if you intend to drive in Europe after we leave the EU, you're probably interested in the possibility that the UK driving licence might not be accepted in the EU and EEA after October 31.

Here’s my take on the situation, and the steps you can take to avoid being stranded if you intend to drive abroad after Brexit.

What’s the problem with the UK driving licences and driving abroad post-Brexit?

The problem is that your UK driving licence might not be accepted throughout European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA) after Britain leaves at the end of October. This will be an issue if you live out there, or if you are considering driving through a European country on holiday or for work.

The AA estimates that up to half-a-million ex-pats will be affected, making it a genuine and largely misunderstood problem.

Dilemma: Brexit is dividing my family

Isn’t this just another example of Project Fear?

No, I don’t think it is. The UK Government gave the following advice on its official website:

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal on 31 October 2019, you will need extra documentation to drive in the EU and EEA.

So what do I need to do as a visitor driving in the EU?

You  will need an International Driving Permit (IDP)

If you’re planning on driving in Europe post-Brexit then it might be prudent to obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP) in advance.

They cost £5.50 and are valid for a year.

The application process is simple and needs to be done in person at an issuing post office. You’ll need to take your existing driving licence along, plus a signed passport-sized photograph and a form of identification, such as a passport.

You will need to visit one of the larger post offices to obtain it as not all of them are able to do so. To find your nearest issuing post office you can do a search here: Just remember to refine your search by ticking the ‘International Driving Permit’ box in the ‘Driving’ section.

Interestingly, there are three different types of International Driving Permit, and you might need multiple versions to drive through different countries. The system is explained here, but you’d better have some Ibuprofen ready because it’s far from straightforward.

If you enjoy Carlton's inimitable style of writing, you'll love his book How to Become a Motoring Journalist - available on the Saga Bookshop.

What about if I live and drive in an EU country?

If you live in an EU country then the UK Government advice is to swap your UK driving licence for one issued by the country in which you live.

This is a straightforward process and is made on a one-for-one basis because you can only hold one European licence. This means that you can’t keep hold of your UK one, although you can swap it back for a British licence when you return home.

However, increased demand (and some are saying Euro intransigence…) mean that what used to take a couple of weeks is now taking considerably longer - and if you haven’t got your local driving licence by the October 31, 2019, you might have to take a driving test if you want to continue to drive in that country.

While France is said to have agreed a one year period of grace in which to make the exchange, the official advice is still to exchange your driving licence now to avoid any potential problems at the end of October.

Want to retire in the EU? What could the future hold for you?

I want to drive in Ireland; will I need an IDP?

No, in a rare fit of commonsense, it has been agreed that your UK driving licence will still be fine while you are driving in Ireland.

What about drivers from the EU coming to the UK?

The Department for Transport has already agreed that the United Kingdom will continue to recognise the EU driving licence as valid.

This gives me hope that the EU will reciprocate but this hasn’t been the case yet, so my advice remains that it is better to be prepared than to be stranded without a valid driving licence come October 31, 2019…

This sounds very difficult

No, it really isn’t! In the heady pre-EU days, having to obtain an IDP was a regular thing so we are really only going back to the days before things were harmonised across Europe and life became a lot simpler.

Plus, let’s not forget that you already need to obtain a 1949 IDP to drive in the United States of America, Australia, Egypt, the Dominican Republic, Japan, and Turkey - plus another sixty-odd countries…

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.