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Motorists guide to Brexit

What you need to know to take your car into the EU

So now Brexit has happened and we’ve left the European Union, what does that mean for the motorist? Can you still import a car from the EU? Head to France with your motor? Here’s what you need to know…

With the UK having officially left the EU on 1 January it’s understandable that drivers might be wondering just how Brexit affects them. So whether you’re buying or selling a car, or just looking forward to heading off on a European road trip, we’ve taken a closer look at the things you’ll need to know.

Let’s talk about importing a car to the UK first. Buying a car for sale in Europe has been a popular activity for many years, especially when it comes to classics as there is all manner of tasty metal to tempt us into opening our wallets. Brexit hasn’t really changed things, so if the car is more than thirty years old there’s no duty to pay with VAT set at 5% – the VAT is charged on the purchase price, including any accessories and delivery charges.

It’s worth noting that for those rates to apply cars of this age are those considered as ‘collector vehicles’, and of a model or type that is no longer in production. And while restoration and repairs are permitted, vehicles must be unmodified and in historically correct condition. If you’ve any doubt over the car you’re considering then it’s advisable to get clarification from HMRC before you buy.


And another thing that hasn’t changed is that after importing the car you’ll have just fourteen days to notify HMRC, using the ‘Notification of Vehicle Arrivals’ (NOVA) process. It’s easy and can be done on-line.

Things are more expensive if you’re importing a car that’s less than thirty years old, whereby importation will attract 10% duty and 20% VAT. The same thirty-year rule also applies to buying parts from the EU, and when it comes to selling a car to Europe the good news is that the buyer will be responsible for any duties payable.

Mike Brewer Motoring - Brexit for Motorists

The idea of importing or exporting a car can seem a little daunting, so if you’re not confident of handling the process it’s best to engage the services of a reputable shipping agent. They can handle all of the paperwork, and owner’s clubs may be to recommend a suitable company.

Which brings us to driving, and while we’ve not been able to head abroad much since last year – for obvious reasons – this year brings hope that we’ll once again be able to indulge in some European motoring adventures.

One thing that many of us are looking forward is the opportunity to head off on a road trip, or if you own a classic car you might be considering one of the many driving tours organised by specialist operators. If so, Brexit hasn’t introduced any additional barriers, although there are a few things to be aware of, a number of which applied while we were still in the EU.

Mike Brewer Motoring - Brexit for Motorists

The first thing is your driver’s licence. The Government advise that you might require an International Driving Permit (IDP) if you still use the old-style, paper licence or if your licence was issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey, or the Isle of Man. In theory, if you have the photocard licence an IDP isn’t required. However, the website carries a list of requirements in each country so it’s worth referring to this before planning your journey, while the permit itself costs just £5.50 from a Post Office.

Also, don’t forget that you’ll need proof of car insurance via a green card issued by your insurer – you’ll need to carry a physical copy when you travel.  You’ll also need to carry the vehicle’s V5C log book, or for a hire car a VE103 form to show you have permission to take it out of the UK. And there’s also the matter of a GB sticker for your car. If your number plate carries a GB identifier – either on its own or with a union flag – a separate sticker isn’t required, but as it is needed in other cases it’s safest to spend a couple of pounds on one.

Naturally, you’ll also need to ensure your passport and healthcare insurance (for example, a European Health Insurance Card) meets the relevant requirements. You’ll find plenty of official advice on-line, so we won’t dwell on that here.

So you should be good to go, but what happens if you prefer to swap a gentle driving tour for something a little more high-octane. If you’re a fan of track days and fancy a trip to the Nurburgring, or want to try your hand at historic motorsport, what happens then?

Mike Brewer Motoring - Brexit for Motorists

Well, if your car is road-registered and all the requirements outlined above are in order there should be nothing more you need to do. If, however, you own a dedicated or more specialised competition vehicle – one that’s not registered for road use – then you may well need a Temporary Admission (ATA) Carnet. In which case our advice is to speak to the helpful folks at the governing body for four-wheeled competition, Motorsport UK. At the time of writing they were still finalising their advice, but it’s definitely your first port of call. You may also need an ATA Carnet if you’re transporting a classic car for display at a show or event (although not if you’re simply driving a classic in the EU); you should confirm this with HMRC.

Ultimately, unless you’re planning on serious motorsport then there’s no complicated bureaucracy to worry about when it comes to enjoying the best roads and scenery that Europe has to offer. And that’s just the sort of good news we all need.

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