UK drivers have 12 months to get Estonian license if no-deal Brexit happens

UK driver's license (picture is illustrative).
UK driver's license (picture is illustrative). Source:

Holders of United Kingdom driving licenses who are resident in Estonia will have a year to switch to an Estonian license, should a no-deal Brexit become a reality on Oct. 31, or at any time after that.

Estonia is to amend the Traffic Act 2013 to allow U.K. license-holders the right to continue driving on Estonian roads, as they have had up to now.

"We want to maintain close relations and diverse cooperation with the U.K., and part of this concerns U.K. driving licenses in Estonia," said minister of economic affairs Taavi Aas (Centre), commenting on the one-year period of grace after the U.K. leaves the EU.

The 12-month grace period applies to U.K. citizens who became a resident in Estonia before Brexit. Anyone moving from the U.K. to Estonia after that will have to apply for an Estonian driver's license.

Should a no-deal Brexit go ahead, holders of U.K. licenses need only pay a state fee to exchange their license. No theoretical or practical test is necessary, according to a ministry press release.

"As of now, the U.K. is still working towards reaching an agreement regarding Brexit, but we have to keep in mind that there is still a chance of a 'hard Brexit'. In order to make Estonia ready for both eventualities, we are thus refining the traffic law," Aas added.

If the UK and EU reach a deal, the 12 month period of grace follows the proposed general Brexit transition period, which would run from the end of this year until year end 2021.

Naturally if Brexit does not take place and the U.K. remains in the EU, the status quo remains and U.K. driver's licenses are valid going forward.

Once the U.K. has left the EU, so far as Estonian law goes, it becomes a "third country" subject to the 1968 Vienna Convention on road traffic, meaning those visiting Estonia can still drive there, but once they have taken up residence, they have 12 months to apply for an Estonian license.

According to §99 of the Road Traffic Act 2013, Estonia recognizes valid driving licenses issued in the EU, and also the European Economic Area (EU plus Norway and Iceland) and the Swiss Confederation. Those residents from countries which do not fully comply with the Vienna Convention need to have an international driver's license to drive in Estonia legally.

If an EU driving license has expired, the driver must pass the Estonian driving test and obtain an Estonian license.

Information about the Estonian driving test is here.

At the time of writing, the status of Brexit and the deadline of Oct. 31 is far from clear following successive defeats for U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Conservative) in votes at the House of Commons which blocked a no-deal going ahead, as well as holding a general election to attempt to decide the matter.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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