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What Brexit means for British drivers abroad
What Brexit means for British drivers abroad

With eager holidaymakers across the continent contemplating the implications and likelihood of a series of rolling regional restrictions and lockdowns as the global coronavirus pandemic continues to evolve, late summer could prove to be the perfect time for a European road trip.

Whatever the timing, it will pay to plan ahead and get all the information you need, well in advance. Because then, you’ll be ready to head off as soon as we get the green light – whether that’s in a matter of weeks or a few more months’ time...

In this article, we look at the implications of Brexit for UK drivers hoping to head for mainland Europe. We explore what non-EU citizens now need to do to be able to drive on the continent, and how best to prepare your Subaru for that long-awaited foreign adventure.

Start planning, to be optimally prepared

Covid-19 has curtailed the activities of citizens in almost every country, all around the world. So, until local restrictions ease further and we have more freedom to travel abroad (with or without the need to factor in a period of required quarantine on our return), advance planning may be all the escapism we can indulge in for the time being.

The traffic light system of designated ‘travel corridors’ aside, Brexit is likely to be one of the biggest changes – and potential challenges – facing UK motorists since they last ventured abroad.

So how does Brexit affect travel to European destinations, and are you aware of the changes?

If you’re gearing up for a cross-Channel hop, followed by a leisurely continental cruise on four wheels, there are a number of key considerations and requirements that you’ll need to build into your preparations.

Required driving documents

Passport, UK driving licence, international driving permit

Let’s start with the easy one – your passport. To travel to any country within the European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA), you’ll need a passport that’s less than 10 years old and has at least 6 months’ remaining validity.

There are 27 countries in the EU. These are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. The EEA includes these EU countries, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. Switzerland is not an EU or EEA member, but is part of the European single market.

A valid Great Britain or Northern Ireland photocard driving licence, issued in the UK, is the only licence you’ll need for driving in the EU, Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway.

However, if you have an older paper driving licence or a licence issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man – or if you’re planning to drive further afield, into non-EU territory – you may need an international driving permit (IDP) to drive in some countries.

Whether or not you need an IDP will depend on which country you’re visiting and how long you’re staying, so be sure to check the requirements for your specific situation. You can find a handy guide on the website. If you do need an IDP for your trip, you can purchase the appropriate one for £5.50 over the counter at most Post Offices.

If you’re planning to live and drive in the EU or EEA, you’ll need to swap your UK driving licence for a local one.

Appropriate vehicle insurance

Post-Brexit, you need to carry a physical copy of a ‘green card’ for your vehicle when you’re driving on the continent. This is proof that you have suitable vehicle insurance – over and above the minimum third party cover that your UK vehicle insurance will provide when you’re driving in Europe. Check the level of cover you require with your UK insurer, and be aware that it could take up to six weeks for them to post a green card to you (although you may be able to download one and print it yourself). You’ll need to carry an extra green card for your trailer or caravan if you’re towing one.

If you’re hiring a vehicle in Europe, insurance will be included – but be sure to check what it covers.

Vehicle registration documents

If you’re driving your own car on the continent, you must carry your vehicle logbook (V5C), if you have one. If you’re hiring a vehicle, you’ll need to carry the VE103 document to show you’re allowed to use the car, as well as its original vehicle registration document (VRD).

Essential items you need to carry

Depending on the country (or countries) you’re driving in, you’re likely to be required by law to carry extra equipment in the vehicle. These essential items could include:

  • Warning triangle
  • Headlamp beam deflectors
  • High-visibility vest
  • First aid kit
  • GB car sticker

Be prepared by checking the requirements for your particular destination and purchasing the items before you travel. If you’re hiring a car within Europe, it’s your responsibility to ensure you have the equipment you need in the countries you’re visiting.

Check local driving rules in advance

Whatever your destination, and whether you’re taking your own car or hiring a vehicle, it always pays to be fully aware of the local driving rules wherever you plan to travel.

At a very basic level, this helps to ensure driver and passenger safety – and the wellbeing of other road users and pedestrians. However, general knowledge of what you are and aren’t allowed to do may also save you an unscheduled trip to the local police station and a potentially hefty fine.

Pay particular attention to differing European speed limits/zones and local drink driving limits, as well as more convenient things like where parking is or isn’t allowed, and whether or not you’re allowed to turn across a central line.

In addition to obeying the laws of local roads, British motorists now need to clearly display a GB sticker on the rear of their vehicle when driving in any of the 27 EU countries (with the exception of Ireland). You don’t need to display a separate GB sticker if your vehicle has a number plate that already includes the GB identifier – unless you’re visiting Spain, Cyprus or Malta, where the additional sticker is still required.

Bear in mind also that in some European cities, you may be required to display emission stickers (permits), which you may need to purchase before you head for the ferry on your outward journey.

What to do if you’re involved in a road accident

Summoning the help of relevant emergency services and administering any first aid, if required, should always be your first concern in the event of any road accident. So make sure you know the local emergency number for the country you’re visiting and familiarise yourself with key first aid responses.

After that, you should immediately contact your insurance provider, who will provide support and explain the next steps for you.

Any legal proceedings against either the responsible driver or the insurance provider of the vehicle will need to be brought in the country in which the accident occurred – and you may need to make your claim in the local language. It’s therefore always prudent to ensure you have appropriate insurance for such eventualities.

Planning to take your pet on holiday with you?

If you’re planning to take the four-legged member(s) of the family with you on your much-anticipated European adventure, you’ll need to give their medical, legal – and potentially also insurance – requirements due consideration too…

They now need an Animal Health Certificate (AHC) rather than the previous pet passport. You’ll need to visit your vet to get an AHC for your pet(s) no more than 10 days before your travel to the EU – but check precise timings with your vet in advance to determine when you need book the appointment.

Any dog, cat or ferret travelling with you must be microchipped and vaccinated against rabies. Your pet must be at least 12 weeks old before it can be vaccinated, and you must wait 21 days after the vaccination before you travel.

Why Subaru could prove to be your perfect travel companion

When it comes to selecting the best-suited vehicle for exciting continental explorations, Subaru will prove to be a trusty and rewarding companion on all sorts of roads, and in all sorts of scenarios.

Wherever you’re heading, and whatever the local weather or road conditions, you can rely on a Subaru to get you to your destination safely – and with plenty of substance to match the style.

Whether you’re driving a Subaru SUV, crossover, estate or hatchback, you and your passengers can sit back and travel in comfort, knowing that Subaru’s world-renowned permanent Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive and advanced safety technologies offer ultimate responsiveness and control at all times.

If you’re heading for rural locations, you’ll be especially grateful for Subaru’s always-on AWD – particularly when that final half-mile kicks unexpectedly upwards on a dusty, rutted track that’s locally known as a “road”!

There’s plenty of boot space for all your holiday gear (essential luggage plus the ‘like-to-haves’) and if you’re looking to hook up a trailer or caravan, you’ll find Forester and Outback offer outstanding towing capacities.

Wherever you’re hoping to head for your post-Brexit European break, Subaru is a sound choice of vehicle.

With a comprehensive 3-year recovery and assistance package within the EU provided with every new car purchase, why not jump online and treat yourself to a test drive appointment with your perfect prospective travel companion?

Book a test drive

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