The UK Government hasn’t made plans to meet demand for IDPs if UK licences stop being valid for Europe next year
As things stand in the Brexit negotiations, UK driving licences will cease to be valid in Europe from 11pm on 29 March next year.
Unless the UK government reaches a specific agreement with Brussels before then, drivers with a UK licence will need to obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP) before they can drive legally or hire a vehicle in France and other EU countries.
On B-Day next March, the UK will become a third country as far as all existing EU transport agreements are concerned:
”According to Article 2 of Directive 2006/126/EC10, driving licences issued by Member States of the Union are mutually recognised. As of the withdrawal date, a driving licence issued by the United Kingdom will no longer be recognised by the Member States on the basis of this legislation.”
European Commission Notice to Stakeholders, Road Transport (Download PDF here)
That means the 26 EU countries would join around 140 other nations where British licence holders must carry an IDP alongside their UK licence.
The UK Department for Transport says it is confident it will reach an agreement with Brussels before B-Day. However, the National Audit Office (NAO) reported last month that the government has no plan in place for dealing with a surge in applications for IDPs in the event of the DfT not reaching an agreement or of a crash-out Brexit.
The NAO believes up to seven million extra IDPs would need to be issued next year. Currently, drivers can only obtain an IDP by visiting selected Post Offices in person or making a postal application to the AA or RAC.
Many Post Offices do not issue IDPs. If a driver lives in Bath in Somerset, for example, the nearest branches that issue them are in Bristol, Trowbridge or Swindon.
Drivers can only apply for one within three months of their travel date – a restriction that could lead to a rush of precautionary applications next January if no deal is in sight.
Of course, before a driver can obtain an IDP, they must have a valid, full UK driving licence. With TMC’s driving licence checking service, fleets can ascertain whether every driver holds a valid licence wherever they need to travel.
For now it seems that IDP is another acronym, like WLTP and RDE2, for fleets to add to their list of ‘unknowns’ as we head towards the uncharted waters of 2019.
The AA provides the following checklist, as well as a wealth of other information about IDPs, on their website:
- An IDP issued in the UK isn’t valid for use in the UK
- To apply for an IDP you must be 18 years or over, and have a valid UK driving licence.
- An IDP can’t be issued to a provisional licence holder
- If you’ve just passed your test, you can apply using your test pass certificate (valid for two years) and provisional driving licence.
- You can’t apply more than three months before you travel.
- An IDP can’t be backdated.
- You could be fined (or worse) for relying on just an IDP – you must carry your UK licence too.
- If you have a Northern Ireland Photocard licence you must also carry the counterpart section when travelling.
- If taking up residence or employment, or travelling for a reason other than tourism, find out about your personal position before relying on an IDP.
- Check the accuracy of the personal information on your driving licence. If you spot any errors or you have a change of name or address, notify the DVLA or nidirect.gov.uk in N.I. straight away.