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ROYALS

In pics: Spanish royals on parade during state visit to London

Spain's King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia are on their first state visit to the United Kingdom.

In pics: Spanish royals on parade during state visit to London
The three-day state visit commenced on Wednesday with a parade up the Mall. Photos: AFP

 

The Mall was decorated with the Spanish flag and the Union Jack ahead of the three-day state visit designed to ephasize strong ties between the two kingdoms.

It is the first State visit by the Spanish royal family since King Juan Carlos visited in 1986. 

READ MORE: Spain's King and Queen start state visit to UK amid Brexit tensions

The Life Guards, members of the household cavalry led the parade up The Mall to Buckingham Palace.

King Felipe and Queen Letizia were greeted by the Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. One kiss or two?

King Felipe and Queen Elizabeth are distant cousins as both descended from Queen Victoria.

Queen Letizia was a journalist and news presenter when she met the future King. She wore a yellow coat-dress by one of her favourite designer's Felipe Varela.

The Spanish couple were formally greeted by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh on Horse Guards Parade before travelling up the Mall to Buckingham Palace where they had a private lunch.

It is expected to be 96-year-old Philip's last state visit before he retires from public duties in the autumn.

King Felipe suceeded to the throne in June 2014 after his aging father King Juan Carlos abdicated. 

The Spanish King will make a speech to the British parliament this afternoon in which he is widely expected to mention the prickly subject of Gibraltar, a perennial thorn in the side of Anglo-Spanish relations and an issue that has promises to be at forefront of Brexit discussions between the two nations.

READ MORE: King Felipe urges end of 'colonial anachronism' of Gibraltar

BREXIT

Anger grows as no solution found yet for in limbo UK drivers in Spain 

British drivers living in Spain are becoming increasingly disgruntled at the lack of solutions two weeks after they were told their UK licences were no longer valid, with the latest update from the UK Embassy suggesting it could still take "weeks" to reach a deal. 

Anger grows as no solution found yet for in limbo UK drivers in Spain 

There is growing discontent among UK licence holders residing in Spain who are currently in limbo, unable to drive in Spain until they either get a Spanish driving licence or a deal is finally reached between Spanish and UK authorities for the mutual exchange of licences post-Brexit.

Since May 1st 2022, drivers who’ve been residents in Spain for more than six months and who weren’t able to exchange their UK licences for Spanish ones cannot drive in Spain.

There are no official stats on how many Britons of the 407,000 UK nationals who are residents in Spain in 2022 are affected; according to the UK Embassy the “majority exchanged” as advised.

But judging by the amount of negative comments the last two updates from the British Embassy in Madrid have received, hundreds if not thousands are stuck without being able to drive in Spain.  

May 12th’s video message by Ambassador Hugh Elliott left many unhappy with the fact that the forecast for a possible licence exchange agreement will be in the “coming weeks”, when two weeks earlier Elliott had spoken of “rapidly accelerating talks”. 

Dozens of angry responses spoke of the “shocking” and “absolutely ridiculous” holdup in negotiations that have been ongoing for more than at least a year and a half, and which the UK Embassy has put down to the fact that Spain is asking the British government to give them access to DVLA driver data such as road offences, something “not requested by other EU Member States”.

Numerous Britons have explained the setbacks not being able to drive in Spain are causing them, from losing their independence to struggling to go to work, the hospital or the supermarket, especially those in rural areas with little public transport.  

“I know personally from all the messages you’ve sent in, just how incredibly disruptive all of this is for many of you,” Elliott said in response. 

“If you are struggling to get around you may find additional advice or support from your local town hall, or charities or community groups in your area and the Support in Spain website is another very useful source of organisations that can provide general support to residents.

“And if your inability to drive is putting you in a very vulnerable situation, you can always contact your nearest consulate for advice.”

There continue to be disparaging opinions in the British community in Spain over whether any pity should be felt for UK licence holders stuck without driving, as many argue they had enough time to register intent to exchange their licences, whilst others clarify that their particular set of circumstances, such as arriving after the December 2020 ‘intent to exchange’ deadline, made this impossible. 

OPINION: Not all Brits in Spain who didn’t exchange UK driving licences are at fault

So is there any light at the end of the tunnel for drivers whose UK licences aren’t valid anymore in Spain or soon won’t be?

“The agreement we’re working towards now will enable UK licence holders, whenever they arrived in Spain or arrive in the future, to exchange their UK licence for a Spanish one without needing to take a practical or a theory test,” Elliott said on Thursday May 12th of the deal they are “fully committed” to achieve.

READ ALSO: How much does it cost to get a Spanish driving licence?

And yet it’s hard for anyone to rest their hopes on this necessarily happening – sooner or later or ever – in part because the embassy advice for those with UK licences for whom it’s imperative to continue driving in Spain is that they should take steps to get their Spanish licence now, while acknowledging that in some places there are “long delays for lessons” and getting your Spanish licence “doesn’t happen overnight”.

READ ALSO: What now for UK licence holders in Spain?

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