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BREXIT

No-deal Brexit: Britons in EU could be forced to retake driving tests

Britons living in the EU may be forced to retake their driving test if they do not swap their British licence for a European one before Brexit D-Day on March 29th if there is no deal, the UK government has revealed.

No-deal Brexit: Britons in EU could be forced to retake driving tests
Britons living in the EU may be forced to retake their driving test. Photo: springfield/Depositphotos
There was yet more bad news for Brits living in Europe this week. 
 
The Department for Transport in the UK revealed that in the case of a no-deal Brexit Britons living in the EU may have to pass another driving test in the country they are living in. 
 
“In the event that there is no EU exit deal, you may have to pass a driving test in the EU country you live in to be able to carry on driving there,” read the statement.
 
Brits living in the EU have been told to swap their British licence for an EU one before the (current) official Brexit day of March 29th but the worry is that a backlog of applications may mean processing delays and people may not have the licence they need in time for the deadline. 
 
If this happens and there is no deal, they may have to retake their driving test. 
 
But it isn't only those living in Europe who may be affected. 
 
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Euro MPs back Brexit delay in letter to BritainPhoto: AFP

Britons on short-term visits to Europe might have to return to the UK in order to get the right paperwork at the post office, with a no-deal Brexit potentially meaning British tourists in Europe need three types of international driving permit. 
 
One positive note from the UK government was that British motorists will still be able to drive in Ireland without any additional paperwork. 
 
But overall it isn't good news for British drivers who can currently drive in all EU countries using their normal licence. 
 
Additionally, British holidaymakers will need different driving permits for different countries in case of a no deal.  
 
This is because drivers with international driving permits (IDPs) issued in Britain currently have either 1949 or 1926 permits.
 
But Britain will have to start issuing a third type for the majority of EU countries that approved the 1968 convention on road traffic and drivers will still need a 1949 version for countries such as Spain, Cyprus, Malta and Iceland.
 
These permits, which are currently available online for £5.50, will only be obtainable at UK post offices from the end of January. 
 
There are fears among professional driving associations that the “mess” will cause a lot of trouble for Britons living in the EU as well as holidaymakers. 
 
“Thousands of expats, many of them elderly, will not relish the prospect of having to retake their driving test in a different country and different language if there is no deal,” the president of the AA motorists' organisation Edmund King told the press. 
 
King added that drivers without the right driving permits could find that they are turned away at ports, calling the fact that drivers will no longer be able to apply for IDPs online a “backward step”. 
 
Meanwhile it looks like EU citizens in the UK will have a better deal.
 
The UK has said it will continue to let EU citizens drive with their EU licence in Britain after Brexit for up to three years after coming to live in the UK and they will be able to exchange their licence for a British one.

Member comments

  1. I applied to exchange my British driver’s licence for a French Licence in April 2018. I have heard nothing….

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BRITS IN EUROPE

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.

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