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DRIVING

Still haven’t swapped your UK driving licence for a Spanish one before Brexit? Don’t panic

One of the preparations Brits have been advised to do before Brexit is to make sure they had renewed or exchanged their DVLA licence for a Spanish equivalent. But many have been having issues.

Still haven't swapped your UK driving licence for a Spanish one before Brexit? Don’t panic
Photo: AntonioGuillemF/Depositphotos

Many readers have complained that it is difficult to get appointments to exchange their UK driving licences for Spanish ones as the Brexit deadline of October 31st approaches.  

Even after the original Brexit date of March 29th was postponed last minute applications has meant it is a struggle to book an appointment at some DGT (Direccion General de Trafico) offices, especially those where there are a big concentration of British residents such as Alicante. 

Some people have tried to get appointments in other cities where there are less foreigners requesting the service and reportedly it is still possible to secure an appointment at the Bilbao office within a week.

But the Spanish government has recognised the backlog and are giving Brits nine months after Brexit to get their licences in order.

READ MORE: Healthcare in Spain after Brexit: What you need to know

If the UK leaves the EU with a Withdrawal Agreement, the provisions relating to the recognition of driving licences will remain in place until the end of the transition period, which currently is set to stand until  December 31st 2020.

Spain’s Royal Decree on Brexit contingency measures, which was signed by Pedro Sanchez’s government in March specifically mentions the issue of driving licences.

The new law, which  appears on the Official State Bulletin, states that those issued with driving licences by the DVLA will have a transitional period of nine months from the day the UK exits the European Union to swap theirs over for a Spanish one -a legal requirement if you have lived in Spain for two years.

The details are also outlined on the Spanish government's dedicated Brexit page

After the 9 month grace period, following Brexit, British licences will be subject to the regulations for ´third countries´ and British driving licences will NOT be able to be swapped for Spanish ones unless a new bilateral agreement between Spain and UK has been drawn up.

Failure to swap your licence could, in the worst case scenario, mean that in order to drive legally in Spain one would have to sit the Spanish driving test.

Don’t worry about the exchange being permanent either. If you return to the UK permanently then it is simple enough to request a replacement British driving licence from the DVLA:

And on visits back to the UK it should still be possible to drive with a Spanish licence as it is now, although check the insurance policy of the car you are using back in UK.

For more about how to exchange your driving licence for a Spanish one, read our guide HERE

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For members

BREXIT

UK driving licences in Spain: When no news is bad news

The UK Ambassador to Spain has given an update on the driving licence debacle, with nothing new to genuinely give hope to the thousands of in-limbo drivers whose increasing frustration has led one group to try and take matters into their own hands.

UK driving licences in Spain: When no news is bad news

It’s been almost five months since UK driving licence holders residing in Spain were told they could no longer drive on Spanish roads. 

Since that fateful May 1st, an unnamed number of the approximately 400,000 UK nationals who are residents in Spain, as well as hundreds if not thousands of Spaniards and foreign nationals who passed their driving test in the UK, have not been able to use their vehicles in Spain or even rent one. 

What adds insult to injury is that British tourists visiting Spain can rent a car without any issue. The fact that Spanish licence holders living in the UK can also continue to exchange their permits in the UK 21 months after Brexit came into force is equally hard to swallow.

READ MORE: ‘An avoidable nightmare’ – How UK licence holders in Spain are affected by driving debacle

The latest update from UK Ambassador to Spain Hugh Elliott on September 27th has done little to quell the anger and sense of helplessness felt by those caught in this bureaucratic rabbit hole.

“I wanted to talk to you personally about the driving licences negotiations, which I know are continuing to have a serious impact on many of you,” Elliott began by saying.

“As the government’s representative in Spain, I hear and understand your frustrations. I too am frustrated by the pace.

“We previously thought, we genuinely thought, that we’d have concluded negotiations by the summer. 

“Many of you have quite rightly mentioned that I expressed the hope to you that we’d have you back on the road by the end of July.

“Now the truth is it has taken much longer, as there have been unforeseen issues that we have been working very hard to resolve. 

“And I’m as disappointed as you are by the length of time that this is actually taking. 

“But, please, be assured that we are resolving those issues, one by one. There are only a couple of issues left, but they are complex.”

It has previously been suggested by the UK Embassy that Spain has asked for data provision to form part of the exchange agreement, and that British authorities were reluctant to share said information on British drivers’ records, including possible infractions. 

Whether this is still one of the causes of the holdups is unknown, given how opaque the Embassy is being in this regard. 

“We’re working on this every day, it remains a priority,” the UK Ambassador continued.

“There is a lot going on behind the scenes, even if it doesn’t feel like it to you. 

“I know too that you want a timescale and you want an update after every meeting.

“But I’m afraid I just can’t give you those things in this negotiation.” 

The ambassador’s words are unlikely to appease those who are still unable to drive. 

A few weeks ago, a Facebook group called “Invasion of the British embassy in Madrid for the DL exchange issue” was set up, which so far has more than 400 members. 

The group’s administrator, Pascal Siegmund, is looking to set up a meeting with the British Embassy and Spanish authorities to shed light on the impact that not being allowed to drive is having on the life of thousands of UK licence holders in Spain. 

Many of those affected are sharing their stories online, explaining how, due to administrative errors on the part of Spain’s DGT traffic authority, they were unable to process their licence exchange before the deadline. 

This contrasts with the little sympathy shown by UK licence holders who were able to exchange and other commentators, who accuse those in limbo of not having bothered to complete the process, arguing that it’s essentially their own fault.

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

“Many of you also continue to ask why you can’t drive while the talks are continuing,” Elliott remarked.

“It is not in the gift of the UK government to reinstate the measures which previously allowed you to continue to drive whilst the negotiations were ongoing earlier in the year. 

“As we said previously, we did request the reinstatement of those measures several times, but this wasn’t granted.”

It’s worth noting that since the news broke on May 1st that UK licence holders residing in Spain for more than six months could no longer drive, no Spanish news outlet has covered the story again. 

Pressure from citizen groups such as the one recently set up and increased awareness about the issue in English-language news sites such as The Local Spain is perhaps the best chance in-limbo drivers have of their voices being heard and the driving licence debacle being finally fixed. 

“I’d say we’re genuinely still making progress,” UK Ambassador Elliott concluded, practically the same message as in previous updates.

“I get how frustrating it is to hear that, but we are making progress. We’re in discussions almost daily about outstanding issues. 

“And I remain very optimistic that we will reach an agreement and hope it will be soon. 

“But as I say, I can’t give you a definitive timetable. 

“And so, the advice that we have been giving all along, which is that you should consider taking the Spanish test if you do need to drive urgently, remains valid. Though we appreciate that’s hard.”

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