No-deal Brexit and travel after we leave the EU

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With two months to go until Brexit, we’re still no clearer how we’re going to leave the EU. That means there’s uncertainty in a range of areas, from travel and roaming charges to food and medicines. I’ve rounded up what the government has told us about a no-deal Brexit.

 No-deal Brexit and your passport

If we leave the EU without a deal, people from the UK will be treated the same as those from so-called ‘third party’ countries, such as the United States and Canada. That means if you travel in the EU, you must:

  • Have a passport that’s been issued within the last ten years on the date you arrive, and
  • Have at least three months left on your passport from the planned departure date from the EU country. However, the rules say that you can stay in an EU country governed by the Shengen border code for 90 days. So the UK government is advising that you make sure your passport is no older than nine years and six months on the day you travel. For children under 16 with a five-year passport, you should make sure it has at least six months left on it.

SAVVY TIP: Up until now, you’ve been able to carry over any unexpired time from your old passport to your new one, subject to a nine month limit. This meant your new passport could be valid for up to 10 years and nine months. However, since the start of September, this hasn’t been possible. Even if your old passport has some time left, your new passport will only last for 10 years.

No-deal Brexit and your EHIC

If there’s a no-deal Brexit, your EHIC will not be valid across the EU from November 1st, without a new agreement with the EU as a whole, or individual countries. Your EHIC gives you the right to access medical treatment on the same basis as someone who lives in that country.

The UK wants agreements in place so that the EHIC remains valid until December 2020. However, as I write this, these agreements are not in place.  Unless and until that happens, if you don’t want to have to pay for medical treatment, you’ll need to get travel insurance.

WARNING: If you have an existing illness or medical condition, you could find it difficult or expensive to get travel insurance. You’re probably much better off going to a travel insurer who specialises in policies for people with medical conditions. I’ve written about companies that specialise in travel insurance for people who have cancer in my article Travel insurance if you have cancer

Driving in the EU

At the moment, your UK driving licence is valid in the EU if you drive there on holiday or for work. If you move to an EU country, you can exchange your UK driving licence for an EU one without having to resit your driving test.

After October 31st, if we leave the EU without a deal:

  • Your UK driving licence will not be enough on its own to drive in the EU
  • You won’t be able to exchange your UK driving licence for another EU country’s one if you go to live there.

If you want to drive in the EU after October 31st or hire a car, you’ll need at least one, and possibly two types of international driving permit. These currently cost £5.50 each. The type of permit you need will depend on the country/ies you’ll be driving in. The two types of driving permit are governed by different conventions:

  • International driving permit governed by the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic: lasts for 12 months and would be needed for Ireland, Malta, Spain and Cyprus.
  • International driving permit governed by the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic: lasts for three years (or until your driving licence expires, if that’s earlier). It would be needed in all the other EU countries, plus Norway and Switzerland.

You can currently get both international driving permits from your Post Office.

Car insurance in the EU

At the moment, part of our membership of the EU means that, if you drive in the EU in your car, your insurer has to offer the minimum level of insurance that’s legally required. That means you get third party cover automatically. So, if you cause an accident or damage someone else’s car or property, your insurer will pay out. Some car insurers provide fully comprehensive insurance for a limited time if you take your car to the EU. Most will add it on for an extra fee.

The good news is that your car insurer will still have to provide third party insurance cover if you take your car to an EU country if we leave the EU without a Brexit deal on October 31st 2019. What will change is that you will have to carry a Green Card to show that you have the correct insurance. You should ask for a Green Card from your car insurer. Green Cards are free, but insurers can charge an admin fee for issuing them.

If you don’t have a Green Card, you may be fined and will have to buy what’s called ‘frontier insurance’, which can be expensive.

SAVVY TIP: A Green Card is a green-coloured document that your car insurer issues to show that you’re insured to drive in a range of countries. You currently need it if you drive your car outside the EU.

If you drive in the EU (or Switzerland, Serbia or Andorra), you don’t need to show what’s called a Green Card.

SAVVY TIP: If your car insurance is due to expire during your holiday, you should check with your insurer as to whether you need one or two Green Cards. If you’re switching to a different insurer when you renew, you will need a Green Card from each insurer 

Related articles: 

Your guide to buying car hire excess insurance

Ten tips on getting the right travel insurance policy for less

Travel insurance if you have cancer

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