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Hassle-free holiday driving at risk if permit problem not solved

Holiday-makers and lorry drivers planning to drive in Europe could face extra hurdles, if an agreement on road transport and driving licences after Brexit is not reached. 

The House of Lords EU Internal Market Sub-Committee has today published its report Brexit: road, rail and maritime transport detailing issues facing UK-EU transport arrangements post-Brexit. The report calls on the Government to clarify the arrangements it seeks for lorry drivers and not to underestimate the inconvenience and cost to all drivers of losing the freedom to drive easily across Europe without International Driving Permits and insurance Green Cards.
During the Committee's inquiry it became clear that unless an agreement was reached on recognition of UK driving licenses, UK drivers wishing to drive in Europe would need to apply for and carry an International Driving Permit, or even multiple separate permits depending on which countries are being travelled to. Drivers may also need to carry proof of insurance.

Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling confirmed in his evidence session with the Committee that “if you want to drive on the continent you walk down to the local post office with your driving license, you get a driving permit that costs a few pounds, and you carry on driving.”

The Committee was disappointed that the only way for UK drivers to obtain an International Driving Permit is to visit a Post Office, and urges the Government to improve accessibility and add an online option. 

Lorry drivers face an additional challenge. Unless new arrangements are made after Brexit, UK haulage permits will no longer be recognised in the EU. To carry goods to and from EU countries, UK hauliers would have to rely on permits issued by the European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT)—a non-EU multilateral scheme. But ECMT permits are subject to restrictions and are very limited in number—the first round of allocation was 11 times oversubscribed. The Government would also seek to revive historical bilateral agreements with EU countries.
Chairman of the EU Internal Market Sub-Committee Lord Whitty said: “The mutual recognition of driving licenses is a benefit of EU membership that should not be underestimated. Being able to freely drive in Europe is advantageous to both commercial and private drivers, the cost and inconvenience of a return to International Driving Permits should be avoided.”

The report also covers road haulage, bus, coach, rail and maritime transport, vehicle standards and issues relating to Northern Ireland-Ireland transport.  

Other recommendations include:

  • Road
    - Future arrangements must preserve UK-EU market access for hauliers. The Government is yet to make its negotiating priorities clear, and must do so now.
    - In the absence of an agreement on road haulage, ECMT permits would allow some UK-EU journeys, but permits are limited in number. The first-round allocation of available permits demonstrated that the supply is vastly outstripped by demand (11 times oversubscribed).
  • Rail
    - The Government should clarify whether it will set wider agreements regarding rail transport in the future, beyond the limited bilateral agreements it has already made clear it will seek. 
    - Divergence from EU rail standards will in some circumstances better suit local conditions, the Government must work with the UK rail stakeholders to provide clarity on how rail standards will be managed.
  • Maritime 
    - Maritime transport is largely underpinned by international law, with the result that after Brexit UK and EU operators will in most respects be able to access each other's ports as at present.
    - Cooperation in some areas is still needed, including with regards to the UK Ship Register, the European Maritime Safety Agency, and seafarer certificates. 
  • Northern Ireland-Ireland
    - The island of Ireland's distinct economic and social ties may not be best-served by broader UK-EU transport negotiations. A solution may be found by pursuing a more bilateral approach. 

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