UK driving licences and Driver CPC: driving in the EU from 29 March 2019

Posted 14/02/2019 : By: Tim Ridyard

There is some possibility that the UK may not have agreed any ‘deal’ with the EU by the day it is due to leave the EU. So, what happens if the UK leaves the EU without a withdrawal agreement and you want to drive in the EU, whether as a commercial driver or if you are driving for leisure purposes e.g. holiday or to visit family and friends?

UK licences are valid whilst the UK is in the European Union. So, unless it has been agreed that there is recognition of UK licences without the need for further documents you will need not only your UK driving licence but an International Driving Permit. (You might need more than one permit depending on which country you visit as there are two different ones.) These permits are obtained from the Post Office at a cost of £5.50.

There are two types: one covers Ireland, Spain, Malta and Cyprus; it lasts 12 months. The other will cover all other EU countries as well as Norway and Switzerland; it lasts three years.

Of course you must ensure your UK driving licence remains valid and has not expired.

Of course, all this may be resolved in different ways: a withdrawal agreement may be agreed with the EU meaning that existing arrangements will continue through any transition period. Other arrangements may be agreed upon so that UK licences continue to be recognised. This may have to be by having an individual agreement between each EU country and the UK.

However, the vital thing to bear in mind is that if you are contemplating a journey into and within the EU using a UK licence from 29 March 2019 and no deal has been reached with the EU you will need the relevant International Driving Permit(s) in place. If you do not have this in place then you are liable to whatever enforcement action may be taken by individual EU countries. You may also find yourself in difficulties with regard to insurance cover.

The legal background: International Driving Permits are issued under two conventions on road traffic: the 1949 Geneva Convention and the 1968 Vienna Convention. The UK only ratified the Vienna Convention on 28 March 2018 and this will come into effect from 29 March 2019 or later if this date moves.

Commercial drivers - Driver CPC

Lorry and bus/coach drivers will need their UK licence and the International Driving Permit but must also hold a professional qualification, the ‘Driver CPC’ – Driver Certificate of Professional Competence - to drive within the EU and in the EEA.

Again there is the possibility that if there is ‘no deal’ as at March 29 2019 and there is no other arrangement then EU and EEA countries might not recognise a Driver CPC that has been issued by the UK.

It will be recognised, however, if the vehicle has a ECMT permit – these are the permits that have to obtained by international operators as a substitute for international operator’s licences (currently used and valid throughout the EU) to get into the European market.

As matters there are only issued to the UK a fraction of the ECMT permits needed meaning that in the absence of some other solution only a small proportion of fleets will be able to operate from 29 March 2019, and only if they have been granted permits at all. This is currently causing huge anxiety for international operators though there is a prospect that an agreement may be reached for the continued recognition of operator’s licences until December 2019. Applicants are currently being made aware of what, if any, permits they have been granted. As there are simply insufficient numerous business have not been granted remotely sufficient to continue their existing operations.

We will continue to update you here as the situation may change very quickly but according to the Department for Transport applications were received for 11,392 permits lodged by 1,991 operators. There are only 984 annual permits with 2,832 monthly permits that will expire after 1 month. There is therefore not available sufficient permits for around 90% of UK operators. 

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