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DRIVING

Brexit: New licence needed to bring vans and trailers from UK to Spain

Another Brexit-related driving change is on the way in 2022, with an extra licence required to bring a van or large car trailer from the UK into an EU country. Here's how the new rule works and who it will affect.

vans parked in UK
If you're using any moving or courier services to transport goods to Spain, expect prices to increase to cover the operator’s costs. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP)

Aside from the uncertainty regarding a long-awaited Spain-UK exchange agreement for regular driving licences, there is another driving change is on the horizon in 2022 which has been confirmed, and it concerns vans or car trailers. 

What

From next year, an international goods vehicle operator licence will be required for people based in the UK who want to bring a van over to the EU or Schengen zone.

It costs £257 (€301) to apply for a goods vehicle operator licence plus an extra £401 (€470) for the licence. It needs to be renewed every five years at a further cost of £401.

When

The change comes into force in May 21st, 2022.

Who

The changes do not affect everyone and depend first of all on the size of your van or trailer and secondly on the reason for your trip.

The rules apply to;

  • vans with a maximum authorised mass (MAM) over 2,500kg (2.5 tonnes) and up to and including 3,500kg (3.5 tonnes)
  • vans towing a trailer with a gross train weight (GTW) over 2.5 tonnes and up to and including 3.5 tonnes
  • cars towing a trailer with a GTW over 2.5 tonnes and up to and including 3.5 tonnes

The smallest Ford Transit-type vans are generally less than 2.5 tonnes MAM, but a long-wheel base van is likely to be covered by this regulation.

Then there is the purpose of your trip.

The licence is not required if you are “transporting goods on a non-commercial basis (not for ‘hire or reward’)”, the UK government website states.

So if for example you have loaded up your own van to bring furniture over to your Spanish house, then the licence is not required because you are not being paid for this service – although you may have to pay duty on the items you bring in.

But the regulation will cover removal firms or couriers – so if you are using any of these services to transport goods to Spain, expect prices to increase to cover the operator’s costs.

The regulations apply only to those based in the UK, so if you want to take a van over from Spain to the UK then there is no need for the extra licence.

Find full details of the changes on the UK government’s page HERE

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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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