British drivers could be stopped from travelling on the continent after Brexit because UK driving licences will no longer be recognised, the European Commission has suggested.
Failure to secure a deal on transport during the negotiations would see the mutual recognition of licences among member states withdrawn, meaning travellers would also potentially be unable to hire cars or take out insurance.
The warning was issued in presentation slides released by the European Commission on Thursday morning, just hours before Theresa May and her Brexit ‘war’ Cabinet were due to meet at Chequers to agree on the UK’s final negotiating position.
Under the heading “consequences of the UK becoming a third country in the road transport sector” the Commission said a consequence of leaving the internal market would be that “all current EU law-based rights, obligations and benefits cease”.
This, it added, would mean the “end of mutual recognition of driving licences, vehicle registration documents and certificates of professional competence for drivers”.
While a Department for Transport spokesman said ministers were “confident” a deal would be agreed, the Government has already begun taking steps to mitigate the impact if discussions fail.
They include signing up to the United Nations Vienna convention on road traffic, allowing drivers to apply for an International Driving Permit, an official document which enables non-EU citizens to drive in the bloc.
However, the process would mean more paperwork and additional cost.
The paper-based IDP is currently available via a limited number of post offices as well as the AA and RAC for a charge of £5.50.
An AA spokesman said the process was time-consuming, adding that the organisation believed the need for IDPs could be avoided through securing a deal.
A DfT spokesman said: “Our aim is to reach an agreement with the EU for mutual licence recognition after Brexit. Such a deal is in the interests of both sides and we remain confident of reaching such an agreement.
“However, it is only sensible that we put contingency measures in place for all scenarios. Ratifying the Vienna Convention will guarantee that UK driving licences will be acceptable throughout the EU when held with the relevant supporting International Driving Permit.”