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BREXIT UPDATE: Spain introduces new process for British driving licence swap

We have some important news for those Brits who have struggled to secure an appointment with Spain’s traffic department in order to exchange their British driving licence for a Spanish one before the end of year deadline.

BREXIT UPDATE: Spain introduces new process for British driving licence swap
Photo by takahiro taguchi on Unsplash

One of the key tasks for those living in Spain ahead of Brexit was to ensure that they had exchanged their DVLA British licence for a Spanish one before the end of the transition period.

Although this has long been a legal required for anyone who has lived in Spain for at least six months, the issue took on an urgency with Brexit when authorities warned that those with British licences would no longer be entitled to simply swap their licence for a Spanish once the UK left Europe and the transition period came to end.

The problem was, it became very difficult to book a cita previa at DGT offices in those areas where lots of Brits live even before coronavirus struck and forced the closure of administrative offices.

Back in early October the British Embassy said that they were in discussion with the Spanish transport authorities and plans were afoot to revise the system.

Now the details of the new process have been published.

Here’s what we know:

The DGT has come up with a new system that went live on Monday November 16th that creates a two-step process to enable UK nationals to complete stage one before the end of year deadline even if they are unable to secure a coveted cita previa at a local DGT office.

As long as Brits living in Spain have registered their application before this December 30th deadline then they will have six months to complete the second step of the process at a DGT office.

The first step is to make an application to the DGT before December 30th. You can do this via their online portal if you have a digital certificate/[email protected] or by calling 060 and asking for a Canje de Permiso de Reino Unido on the automated system. 

READ MORE:  Spanish bureaucracy explained: Saving time through the online [email protected] system

The Local called this number and when put through was told there was a designated English speaker in the office Monday to Friday between 9am and 3pm for those who feel their command of Spanish isn't up to the task. If not in Spain and calling from abroad, the number is +34 902 887 060.

In some provinces it may also be possible to do so by downloading the form and taking it to your local office, though you may wish to ring ahead to confirm this.

The form can be downloaded HERE 

You can also ask a representative (such as a gestor) to do this on your behalf.

We understand that for this part of the process you do not need to have the green residency certificate or TIE, but you will need a NIE.

If you do not hear anything from the DGT in the meantime, three days after submitting your application you can request an appointment with the DGT to do the exchange.

Once three days have passed, use the following link to book your appointment HERE

This takes you to a page where you need to click on the first icon on the top left “solicitud de cita previa”.

You will then need to follow the instructions as set out on the DGT’s main page detailing the new process: select your office and under “Tipo de Tramite” select “Tramites de Oficina” not canjes de permiso. You should then click 'continuar' under the section for ‘conductores’.

In some offices you may still not be able to get an appointment straight away, but don't worry. 
 

As long as your application has been submitted before December 30th, and the UK authorities have verified your licence by the end of the year (this part of the process will be carried out between the DGT and the DVLA) , your appointment to exchange your licence can be after January 1 2021, provided it is within the first 6 months of next year.

The British Embassy states: “Please note that you will need a residency certificate/TIE to do final exchange, so if you are in the process of applying for residency you may want to choose a later date for your appointment.”

Irrespective of whether a UK licence has been verified for exchange by the end of the year, British residents in Spain will be able to drive legally using your UK licence for 6 months from 1 January 2021 but after that date you will need to pass the Spanish driving test if you have not exchanged your licence for a Spanish one.

The future rules on exchange and recognition of UK licences are still subject to negotiation.

All the details of the new process can be found on the DGT site HERE: (You can change the site’s language to English by selecting it in the drop-down menu in the top right hand corner of the page.)

 

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SPAIN AND THE UK

Liz Truss: What does the new UK PM mean for Brits in Spain?

Following the announcement that Liz Truss will replace Boris Johnson as the UK’s new Prime Minister, political correspondent Conor Faulkner analyses what this could mean for Brexit and the 400,000 UK nationals who reside in Spain.

Liz Truss: What does the new UK PM mean for Brits in Spain?

On Monday September 5th, it was announced that members of UK’s Conservative party had finally elected a new leader and thus a new Prime Minister, after Boris Johnson was forced to resign at the start of the summer.

Beating rival Rishi Sunak with 57 percent of the vote, just 80,000 Conservative party members elected the former Foreign Secretary as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland.

READ ALSO: ‘Iron weathercock’ – Europe reacts to Liz Truss becoming new UK PM

But what, if anything, does her election mean for Brexit and the 400,000 Britons living in Spain? 

Will she be a continuity politician or will she forge a new path (for better or worse) in British-European relations?

Truss the Remainer

During the 2016 EU referendum campaign, Liz Truss campaigned for Remain. “I don’t want my daughters to live in a world where they have to apply for a visa to work in Europe,” she famously said.

Having once been a member of the Liberal Democrats and decidedly more pro-European, Truss’s conversion to Euroscepticism came after she had voted Remain in the EU in the June 2016 referendum.

Did the much hallowed Brexit benefits become clear to her in the aftermath of the result? Possibly. Or, as Brexit became a litmus test of loyalty and Conservatism, did her position shift to fit the intra-party politics of her party?

Although one may hope that her former pro-European positions might mean a softening in UK-EU relations in the post-Johnson era, Truss’s dependence on the Eurosceptic wing of the Conservative parliamentary party during her leadership campaign suggests she may be kneecapped in her ability to strike compromises with the EU.

Truss the Foreign Secretary

Owing to Truss’s tendency to be a bit of a political flip-flopper and change her positions at the whim of career progression, it is therefore quite difficult to predict her future behaviour with regards to Spain. We can, however, make some educated guesses based on her time as Foreign Secretary.

Going off her tenure in the Foreign Office, it seems Truss may view relations with Spain more positively than perhaps with other EU member states or the block as a whole.

In December 2021, Truss travelled to Madrid to meet with her then counterpart José Manuel Albares to build “closer economic, tech and security ties” with Spain, and to “support” the 400,000 Britons living in Spain. 

“We’re significant trading partners, with the UK as Spain’s biggest European investor,” she said, “and the UK as the top destination for Spanish investment. By boosting our trading ties even further, both Spain and every region and nation of the UK will benefit.”

Yet, Truss has also strongly hinted that she would be willing to overhaul Article 16 and put the Northern Ireland protocol at risk. If she is willing to jeopardise peace and potentially break international law to appease her political base in England, particularly within her own parliamentary party, one must wonder about the seriousness with which a few hundred thousand Brits up and down Spain’s costas will be taken. 

Reaction in Spain

Spain’s leading newspaper El País believes Truss will continue the populist strategy of Johnson. Truss was, even in her acceptance speech on Monday, loyal to her predecessor. 

She “promises citizens a rose-tinted future, without clarifying how she intends to achieve it”, the paper believes.

Sue Wilson, Chair of Bremain in Spain, told The Local that she expects Truss to “carry on with the policies of Johnson, and be led, presumably, by the same right-wing forces of the Conservative Party.

“I suspect that, as far as what affects British citizens in Spain, that continuity will simply mean we remain invisible and left to our own devices,” Wilson added.

“Britons in Spain have been left in bureaucratic limbo since the Brexit vote six years ago. Whether it be the ongoing confusion over driving licenses or renewing residency or getting new TIE cards, many Britons abroad have felt abandoned by the UK government.”

Wilson and other members of Bremain in Spain will take part in the National Rejoin March in London on Saturday September 10th to “deliver a warning to the new PM about the impact of Brexit on the spiralling cost of living crisis in the UK”,  to express a “clear and loud message” that “Brexit has failed” and to promote “Rejoin the EU” as a “mainstream” call to action.

“For six years now, Brits living in Europe have been dealing with fear, uncertainty and stress, thanks to Brexit. We have already lost important rights, and many are concerned that even those secured could be at risk. Truss plans to proceed with the Protocol Bill which threatens the legally binding international treaty that secured those limited rights. In the process, she seems determined to do further damage to UK/EU relations and our international reputation.”

Anne Hernández, head of Brexpats in Spain, told The Local Spain: “Our problem as Brits in Spain might be if she actually applies Article 16, meaning a no deal Brexit, and she has threatened that. Although I’m not sure how that might affect our rights.”

The overriding feeling among UK nationals in Spain about Truss in No. 10 is the feeling of trepidation that Hernández describes.

With its fourth leader in six years and the third to take the helm of Britain in the post-Brexit world, for Brits abroad Truss’ rise to Downing Street has prolonged that uncertainty. 

With her apparent willingness to simply tear up internationally binding agreements, many will worry if the situation in Spain will be taken back to square one.

One would hope that her previously positive interactions with the Spanish state could mean that she lends a hand in resolving some of these lingering administrative issues affecting Britons in Spain, but the propensity to change her politics when it suits her make this unpredictable, and her reliance on Eurosceptic forces within her party make it unlikely.

How about Gibraltar?

This unpredictability could be of particular concern for UK nationals in Gibraltar. After voting Remain by a whopping 96 percent, the tiny British territory was not included in the main Brexit deal that came into effect from January 2021, and complicated multilateral negotiations between Gibraltar, London, Madrid and Brussels have rumbled on without resolution. 

Truss’ rhetoric on Gibraltar during her tenure as Foreign Secretary was as combative as her anti-EU talking points during the Tory leadership campaign, continuing the us-against-them language: “We will continue to defend the sovereignty of Gibraltar.”

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