Brexit: road, rail and maritime transport Contents

Chapter 4: Private motoring

89.Commercial drivers and private motorists alike share an obligation to carry a driving licence valid in the territory in which they are driving. Between 1980 and 2006 the EU progressively harmonised the regulatory framework for driving licences, with a view to facilitating travel within the Union. Efforts culminated in a single driving licence model, with mutual recognition and harmonised requirements around licences’ issue, validity and renewal, vehicle categories and standards for examiners. EU law also enables EU citizens who move to a different EU country to exchange their driving licence without taking another driving test.108

90.Subject to national legislation, drivers from non-EU countries may be required to carry an International Driving Permit (IDP) when travelling abroad. An IDP is a multilingual translation of a driving licence, which can be issued under one of three conventions: the 1926 International Convention relative to Motor Traffic, the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic or the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic.109 The type of IDP required depends on which convention is applied. Within Europe, the Republic of Ireland, Spain, Malta and Cyprus are parties to the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic; all other EU countries, along with Norway and Switzerland, are parties to the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic. The 1926 Convention is applied only by Liechtenstein.

91.Private motorists may also make use of a Green Card when driving abroad. Green Cards are “an international certificate of insurance providing visiting motorists the minimum compulsory insurance cover required by the law of the country visited”.110 Carrying a Green Card removes the requirement for motorists to purchase additional third-party motor insurance policy cover. They are accepted in 48 countries, including EU and EEA Member States, Switzerland, Russia and several countries in the Middle East. The Green Card system is run by the national insurance bureaux of participating countries through an organisation called the Council of Bureaux.

92.The national insurance bureaux of EU and EEA Member States as well as Andorra, Switzerland and Serbia have concluded a multilateral agreement that establishes a Green Card-free circulation area.111 This means that the driver of a vehicle registered in a participating country does not need to carry a Green Card as proof of third-party insurance cover when driving in another participating country.

Future UK-EU arrangements

93.The Government’s White Paper noted “arrangements for private motoring” as a general negotiating objective. The Automobile Association (AA) highlighted that, unless an agreement was reached on recognition of UK licences, “UK drivers wishing to drive in Europe … would need to apply for and carry an International Driving Permit (IDP)”.112

94.The AA added that, without an agreement, UK drivers might even “have to carry two separate IDPs”. For example, “a driver heading to Spain via France would have to apply for, pay for and carry both a 1968 and a 1949 convention IDP”. The AA also pointed out that “each type of IDP is valid for a different period”—12 months for the 1949 convention IDPs and three years for the 1968 convention IDPs.113

95.Another concern was registered by the RAC: without arrangements for recognition, UK citizens living in the EU would be required to return to the UK to obtain a (time-limited) IDP, or take “a driving test in their country of residence”. It called for “clarity so that motorists heading abroad have adequate time to prepare for anything that a deal may bring”.114

96.Mr Salmon highlighted that without an agreement, UK drivers would need to “carry … an insurance Green Card”.115 The Government’s ‘no deal’ technical notice on requirements for UK drivers confirmed that, in the absence of a specific decision by the Commission, UK motorists would be required to obtain a Green Card when travelling to EU and other EEA countries.116

97.The RAC felt that the current arrangements under EU law provided for “the quickest and least administratively burdensome journey”, but accepted that any new arrangement could mean drivers would need “additional paperwork … before heading abroad”. It concluded: “Where drivers need to apply for extra documentation for their vehicles, we would encourage that this is done in a way that is simple, fast, and cost effective and could be done digitally, in person or by phone.”117

98.We note that the Government has indicated that arrangements for EU and EEA licence holders living in the UK “will not change” in the event of ‘no deal’. They would be allowed to use their driving licence for up to three years after becoming residents and exchange it for a UK one without re-testing—provided they passed their test in the EU or EEA. EU/EEA motorists visiting the UK would not need an IDP, but would be expected to carry a Green Card.118

The Government’s position

99.Mr Grayling confirmed that without arrangements for the recognition of driving licences, drivers would need to “revert to a system of international driving permits of the kind that existed before our membership of the EU”. He described the practical implications of this: “If you want to drive on the continent you walk down to the local post office with your driving licence, you get a driving permit that costs a few pounds, and you carry on driving.”119

100.We asked Jesse Norman MP about IDP permits in the context of the Government’s ‘no deal’ preparations. He agreed that the requirement to visit a Post Office to obtain an IDP was not an optimal arrangement and acknowledged that some journeys would require a driver to get more than one permit.120

101.The Minister also outlined the Government’s efforts to raise public awareness of IDPs: “We put a lot of energy behind not just an extremely simple process on GOV.UK so that people can go and do it, but posters and radio adverts … We have also advertised this through the AA and the RAC, which were the previous providers of international driving permits.”121

102.In our November 2018 session with the Secretary of State, Martin Jones, Deputy Director, EU Division, DfT, explained that arrangements for the Green Card-free circulation area were open to third countries.122 In our later evidence session with the Minister of State, Mr Rimmington described “a very peculiar interaction between EU law and the wider green-card arrangements”, whereby the Commission was required to issue an implementing decision to give effect to the accession of a third state to the Green-Card free circulation area. He told us that the Government had written to the Commission, but “as of yet it has declined to make any such decision”.123

103.The mutual recognition of driving licences and the establishment of the Green Card-free circulation area have brought substantial benefits to commercial drivers and private motorists. We encourage the Government to seek continuation of present arrangements as part of a future arrangement with the EU.

104.The inconvenience and additional costs of International Driving Permits and Green Cards should not be underestimated. We find the present requirement for UK drivers to visit a Post Office to obtain an International Driving Permit unsatisfactory. We therefore urge the Government to improve accessibility, including the addition of an online option.

108 Directive 2006/126/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 December 2006 on driving licences (recast), OJ L 403/18 (30 December 2006)

109 United Nations Geneva Convention on Road Traffic (19 September 1949):–36%20PM/Ch_XI_B_1_2_3.pdf; United Nations Vienna Convention on Road Traffic (8 November 1968): [accessed 13 December 2018]

110 Motor Insurers Bureau, ‘Green card system explained’: [accessed 13 December 2018]

111 Agreement between the national insurers’ bureaux of the Member States of the European Economic Area and other Associate States (29 May 2008): [accessed 14 January 2019]

112 Written evidence from The Automobile Association (TRA0026)

113 Ibid.

114 Written evidence from RAC Limited (TRA0027)

115 Written evidence from The Confederation of Passenger Transport (TRA0006)

116 Department for Transport, ‘Prepare to drive in the EU after Brexit’ (25 October 2018): [accessed 13 December 2018]

117 Written evidence from RAC Limited (TRA0027)

118 Department for Transport, ‘Prepare to drive in the EU after Brexit’ (25 October 2018): [accessed 23 April 2019]

119 Q 54 (Chris Grayling MP)

120 Q 74 (Jesse Norman MP)

121 Ibid.

122 Q 54 (Martin Jones)

123 Q 74 (Ben Rimmington)

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