EU driving licences post-Brexit


One of the tasks post-Brexit will be the working out how the UK will deal with EU driving licences.

At present any EU member state driver with a valid EU member state licence can drive a car in the UK on their home licence.

In the UK, this means that a German licence holder, for instance, can drive in the UK on their German licence. If resident in the UK, the German licence holder can drive in the UK until they are seventy without having to exchange their licence for a UK licence.

A driving ban in another member state (apart from mutual recognition with Ireland) is not recognised in the UK but it is highly likely that an EU national, banned say in Spain, and driving in the UK, will not be insured to drive under the terms of their insurance policy. A UK driving ban is recognised only in Ireland although, as said, it is highly unlikely that a driver, banned in the UK, with a UK licence, will be insured under the terms of a policy – whether a UK or other member state policy – in another member state.

At present, holders of non-EU licences face some difficulties. Drivers from all non-EU “designated countries” can drive in the UK validly for twelve months after they first become resident in the UK. There are seventeen of these countries including Japan, Canada, Australia, South Africa and Switzerland. The USA, China and India are not included. They can then exchange their foreign licence for up to five years for a UK licence.

The reason for these countries being designated is due, I suspect, to tougher driving tests than other countries. The reasons though are not apparent from the outset.

The term “resident” isn’t defined in the legislation.

If they don’t exchange it within this time frame then the licence holder must start from square one and pass the UK driving test starting off with a provisional licence.

For non-designated countries you cannot exchange your licence. You can drive for twelve months if resident in the UK but must then apply for a UK provisional licence.

Following Brexit the following questions will need answering:

  1. Which EU member state licence holders will be able to drive in the UK without needing to exchange licences if resident for more than year? Will a Slovakian licence holder discover that if in the UK for more than a year he will need to get a provisional licence whereas a German driver will be able to drive for up to five years before exchanging their licence for a full UK licence?


  1. Will EU nationals will lose their right to drive on their member state licence and need to apply for a provisional licence if already resident in the UK? How long will any period of grace be before this right is lost?


  1. Which member states will be deemed designated countries and which ones non-designated.


  1. The number of individuals applying and taking driving tests (assuming EU member states licence holders do not find they are in the same position) will boom. The DSA will need to pump resources into more test centres. At present, there can be a two to three month wait for driving tests. All good news for driving test instructors.


  1. Will other member states put similar restrictions on UK nationals abroad who can currently drive until seventy on their UK licence? I doubt this as the UK driving test is one of the toughest tests in the world but it is too early to tell.


  1. I doubt for mere visitors for a few weeks on holiday anything major will change but there will be changes in the long term for those holding non-UK member state licences.


  1. If this makes your head spin, imagine how much time and effort will be spent unpicking all the other EU law currently transposed into UK law.


Julian Hunt



29th June 2016

Acquisition International UK Transportation Lawyer of the Year 2016

Posted in Julian R Hunt