Northern Ireland

Brexit: Confusion over cross-border driving permit

cars crossing border
Image caption Will drivers need a permit to cross the border after Brexit?

There is confusion over the paperwork motorists from Northern Ireland will need to drive in the Republic of Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Following government advice, many have been applying for International Driving Permits at their local post offices.

Yet, the post office is now advising its branches to tell customers they will not need the permits to drive in the Republic after Brexit.

So what, if anything, will drivers need?

Advice so far

Last September, the UK government advised that an International Driving Permit would be required to drive in the Republic after 28 March 2019.

But in January of this year, that advice was withdrawn.

Image caption Permits are available from a number of post offices, even though it remains unclear whether they will be needed

Now updated advice states that you should not need an international permit to drive south of the border.

Despite this, some post offices have started selling the permits to customers keen to ensure that they can continue driving in the Republic of Ireland after Brexit Day.

On Wednesday, I bought one of these permits in Newry.

It cost £5.50 and states that it is valid for one year from 28 March.

It was bought on the basis that I would only be driving in the Republic and not other EU nations.

Every day thousands of cars criss cross hundreds of roads along the Irish border without restriction for work and leisure.

Image caption An international driving permit can be bought at some post offices

One of them is Newry solicitor Neil Manley who says people who work on both sides of the border feel there is little choice but to get the permit to ensure they are covered.

"I think it's inevitable that I will have to get one of the driving permits for travelling across the border," he said.

Image caption Neil Manley believes people feel there is little choice other than a permit

"I've business and personal commitments on both sides of the border, so I think it is in my best interests to err on the side of caution in relation to this."

The Post Office said in a statement: "Based on government advice, we will be reminding our branches to explain to customers that UK licence holders will not need an international driving permit to drive in Ireland."

'Green card'

But one thing drivers will need in the event of a hard Brexit is a green card which proves their insurance covers them in the Republic.

According to Newry insurance broker Anthony Boden: "The green card is an international motor insurance certificate that allows motorists from Northern Ireland to drive in the Republic or the rest of Europe.

"It's not something we have needed for around 30 years but the Association of British Insurers came out in the middle of January to announce that it will be required in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

"So it is something we have to prepare for, and it is something we are preparing for."

Image caption Anthony Boden says it is important to be prepared by having a green card

'Serious trade impact'

Just across the border is the seaside town of Carlingford.

In the last 20 years it has become a major destination for visitors from north of the border.

Image caption Drivers will need a green card in the event of a hard border

Cormac McCann runs the local tourist office.

He says any form of restriction on motorists could have severe implications for the sector on both sides of Carlingford Lough.

"We promote both sides of the Lough as a region. It would have serious effects on our trade overall," he said.

"Without northern trade, Carlingford (village) wouldn't be as busy as it is and a lot of livelihoods wouldn't be able to support themselves."

Image caption There are concerns around the impact permits could have for tourist locations such as Carlingford village

With time there should be clarity both on the permits and the green cards.

If either are required this could present the further question of how and where they may be checked.

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