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Driving abroad and motor insurance cover documentation following Brexit

December 02, 2020

Those driving in the EU after the Brexit transition need to keep abreast of potential regulatory changes and ensure they have the correct documentation to do so.

The Brexit transition period will last until 31 December 2020. During the transition period, arrangements for driving in Europe remain the same as prior to Brexit.

However, the requirements for motorists following the end of the transition period are, as yet, unknown. Unless a trade agreement between the UK and the EU makes provisions for UK motorists, driving in Europe from 1 January 2021 may require similar arrangements as would have been the case in the event of a "no deal" Brexit — that is, obtaining a Green Card.

Why might a Green Card be necessary?

A Green Card is an European Economic Area (EEA)1 certification of insurance which provides motorists with evidence of the minimum level of compulsory motor insurance required by the law of the EEA country in which travel will take place.

As a member of the EU, a UK motorist was not required to show any additional proof of motor insurance (such as a Green Card) when travelling within the Green Card-free circulation area. This area comprises the EEA, and Andorra, Serbia and Switzerland. If you are planning to take your vehicle to the EU during the transition period, you will not be required to obtain a Green Card.

In the event of no agreement on our relationship with the EU from the end of the transition period, it may be necessary to contact your insurer to obtain a Green Card if you plan on driving in Europe on or after 31 December 2020.

In the scenario where travel is not included in any trade agreement, after 31 December 2020 UK motorists driving all classes of vehicles, both privately owned and those within a company's fleet, will need to carry a Green Card as proof of third-party motor insurance cover. Some countries also require separate insurance for trailers, so a separate Green Card may also be required for a trailer. A physical copy of a Green Card will be necessary when travelling in Europe, as digital copies are not currently accepted. Green Cards need to be applied for at least a month before travel, so it is important to ensure that any applications are made promptly as we move towards the end of the transition period.

Failure to comply with the requirement to have a Green Card could lead to severe consequences. If drivers do not carry a Green Card, their vehicle could be seized, they could face a fine and/or the risk of prosecution.

Obtaining a Green Card

Each insurer is obliged to provide a Green Card when requested by their policyholders and many insurers have released their own guidance in relation to Green Cards. There may be a cost associated with the issuance of a Green Card, and this will vary between insurers. In view of the timing of the application process and the possible consequences of failure to carry a Green Card, consumers and businesses are advised to contact their insurers as far in advance of the intended trip as possible to ensure the Green Card is obtained and received in time. The insurer will advise the period of validity of each Green Card.

“Black and White is the new Green”

Insurers are now able to issue Green Cards that are in black ink on white paper and send them directly to policyholders by e-mail, who can later print them in black ink on white paper.

Issuing Green Cards in black ink on green paper is still permitted, but all countries must recognise black on white Green Cards from visiting motorists.

Are there any additional requirements?

Given the current uncertainty over the terms of the UK's future relationship with the EU, it is important to monitor guidance issued from the Government and insurance bodies as a number of requirements (including international driving licences or permits, vehicle identification etc.) for driving abroad may change, depending upon the terms of the UK's future relationship with the EU.

If you have any queries about any of the issues discussed in this article, please do not hesitate to get in contact with us.



[1] European Economic Area (EEA) countries following Brexit are the 27 members of the European Union plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

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