Besides a sea-crossing, right now there’s nothing stopping you jumping in your car and driving through any of the 27 other EU countries. That’s because, as members of the EU, Brits are legally allowed to drive from Toledo to Tallinn, Athens to Aarhus, without having to pass a test in the country you happen to be speeding through.
If your driving licence is issued by one EU country then it is recognised by the other EU members and vice versa. This is thanks to EU Directive 2006/126, Article 2 of which says “driving licences issued by Member States shall be mutually recognised”. It really is that simple.
This is also a good demonstration of how the EU works. Each country agrees to a rule like this which benefits their own citizens but must give other EU citizens the same treatment.
And it’s a good example of how being in the EU makes it so easy to live, work and retire across an entire continent. In many non-EU countries you can use a UK driving licence for short stays, but need to apply for an international licence or one from that country for longer stays. There’s none of that hassle in the EU.
As ever with Brexit, a “no deal” scenario would be the worst for our European driving rights. As Article 50 says, all the treaties will cease to apply. This means that all EU law that is recognised in the UK stops in a no deal Brexit. UK driving licences will not be recognised in the EU under this legislation and would be subject to individual Member States’ own rules therefore breaking the harmony of law that we have enjoyed.
On January 19 the government issued its technical notice detailing that you may need to obtain an International Driving Permit. This is only valid for 12 months and you need to take it with you in addition to your national driving licence.
The government has also advised UK citizens living on the continent that they should consider exchanging their UK driving licence for an EU driving licence as soon as possible. Increased demand may lead to longer processing times and delays to exchanging driving licences the closer it is to 29 March 2019.
People will be able to drive on their EU licences when visiting the UK. If you return to live in the UK, provided you passed your driving test in the UK (or another specified country), you can exchange your EU licence for a UK licence without taking another test.
This is just one extra drawback that will affect UK citizens on top of the countless other benefits we gain thanks to EU law. With the losses of Brexit stacking up, and deadlock in Parliament bringing the “no deal” deadline ever closer, it’s time for MPs to back a People’s Vote – and ask if they want to leave behind all the benefits of the EU after all.