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BREXIT

Spain extends post-Brexit UK driving licence validity until April 30th

The British Embassy in Madrid announced on Wednesday that Spanish authorities have for the fourth time extended the period of validity of UK driving licences in Spain, as negotiations over the mutual exchange of licences continue with no deadline in sight. 

Spain extends post-Brexit UK driving licence validity until April 30th
UK licence holders in Spain will have another two months during which they'll be able to drive in Spain, with negotiations over an easy licence exchange still ongoing. Photo: JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

The Spanish government has approved another two-month extension to the validity of UK licences in Spain, several days after UK Ambassador for Spain Hugh Elliott announced he had requested a longer grace period as the February 28th deadline neared. 

“Following the Ambassador’s message last week we are pleased to let you know that yesterday the Spanish Government confirmed an extension of the current grace period for the recognition of UK driving licences,” the UK Embassy in Madrid wrote in a Facebook message.

“That means that those of you who were living in Spain before January 1st 2021 can continue to drive in Spain with your valid UK driving licence until April 30th 2022,” the British Embassy explained. 

“If you moved to Spain after January 1st 2021, your licence will be recognised for six months from the date you obtained residence, or until April 30th 2022, whichever is later. 

“For those of you who registered your intention to exchange your licence with the DGT before December 30th 2020, but have not yet done so, you have until April 30th to request an appointment.

The news will give some respite to UK licence holders in Spain, but the UK Embassy continues to suggest that people should make the necessary arrangements to take the test if it’s imperative that they continue to drive, regardless of whether a deal is reached or not. 

“I recognise that for language reasons this is not an option for many of you,” HMA Hugh Elliott stated last Thursday, in relation to the fact that the practical driving exam in Spain is with a Spanish-speaking driving examiner and can’t be done in English.

The vast majority of EU countries have been able to reach a deal with the United Kingdom over the recognition and easy exchange of driving licences post-Brexit, but Spain remains an outlier.

Driving licences: How does situation for Britons in Spain compare to rest of Europe?

“I can’t go into the details of the negotiations, but I can say that they are ongoing, there are regular meetings and there’s a strong will on both sides to reach an agreement,” the British Ambassador added.

“This process is of course taking much longer than we’d hoped and of course that creates anxiety for you, I know.”

It is unclear yet if any future agreement would be beneficial just to British residents who are protected under the Withdrawal Agreement or other UK licence holders who have moved or will move to Spain to become residents after Brexit came into force on January 1st 2021.

Unless Spain has a bilateral agreement with a third country for the recognition and exchange of licences, most non-EU driving licence holders have six months from their arrival in Spain to use their foreign licences (some need an international driving permit from the very beginning). 

After that, they have to sit theory and practical tests and get a Spanish licence from scratch. 

The situation described in this article doesn’t apply to British tourists with UK licences visiting Spain who are for example renting a car during their holidays.

The issues affect UK licence holders who are residents in Spain.

READ ALSO: The challenges Britons in Spain face in 2022

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WOMEN'S RIGHTS

Spanish government divided over proposed menstruation leave bill

Talk of abortion policy reform and proposed menstrual leave has dominated Spanish discourse this week, but it’s also dividing Spain’s coalition government.

Spanish government divided over proposed menstruation leave bill

Spain’s PSOE-fronted coalition government recently outlined proposals that have dominated public discourse in the country.

But the legislation, which would allow women over the age of 16 to get abortions without the permission of their parents and introduce ‘menstruation leave’ for those suffering serious period pains, has not only divided Spanish society but the government itself.

The proposals would make Spain a leader in the Western world, and the first European Union member state to introduce menstrual leave, and changes to abortion law would overturn a 2015 law passed by the conservative People’s Party that forced women aged 16 and 17 to obtain parental consent.

The wide-ranging bill would also end VAT on menstrual products, increase the free distribution of them in schools, and allow between three and five days of leave each month for women who experience particularly painful periods.

READ MORE: What are Spain’s abortion laws for foreign residents and visitors?

Menstrual leave

Ángela Rodríguez, the Secretary of State for Equality, told Spanish newspaper El Periódico in March that “it’s important to be clear about what a painful period is – we’re not talking about slight discomfort, but about serious symptoms such as diarrhoea, fever and bad headaches.”

“When there’s a problem that can’t be solved medically, we think it’s very sensible to have temporary sick leave,” she added.

Cabinet politics

The proposals are slated for approval in cabinet next week, and judging by reports in the Spanish media this week, it is far from reaching a consensus. It is believed the intra-cabinet tensions stem not from the changes to abortion and contraception accessibility, but rather the proposed menstrual leave.

The junior coalition partner in government, Podemos, largely supports the bill, but it is believed some in the PSOE ranks are more sceptical about the symbolism and employment effects of the proposed period pain policy.

Vice President and Minister of Economic Affairs, Nadia Calviño, said this week: “Let me repeat it very clearly: this government believes and is absolutely committed to gender equality and we will never adopt measures that may result in a stigmatisation of women.”

Yet Second Vice President and Minister of Labour, Yolanda Díaz, who is viewed as further to the left than President Pedro Sánchez and other PSOE cabinet ministers, is reportedly “absolutely in favour” of the measure to reform Spain’s “deeply masculinised” labour market.

Sources in the Spanish media have this week also reported that some PSOE cabinet ministers feel the proposed paid leave not only plays up to stereotypes of women, or stigmatises them, like Calviño says, but also places them at a disadvantage in the world of work.

Minister of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration, José Luis Escrivá, stated that while the government should seek to improve women’s employment protections, it should also seek to boost their participation in the labour market under “better conditions.”

In that vein, some feel menstrual leave could be used a form of of employment discrimination similarly to how pregnancy has been historically, and the policy would, in that sense, actually be more regressive than progressive in enshrining women’s workplace rights. 

READ MORE: Spain eyes free contraception for under-25’s

Trade unions

Trade unions are also sceptical of the menstrual leave legislation. Cristina Antoñanzas, deputy secretary of UGT, one of Spain’s largest trade unions, has echoed those in the cabinet who feel the proposals could “stigmatise women.” She added that “it does women a disservice.”

Public opinion

A survey run by INTIMINA found that 67 percent of Spanish women are in favour of regulating menstrual leave, but also that 75 percent fear it is “a double-edged sword” that could generate labor discrimination.

The survey also found that 88 percent of women who suffer from disabling and frequent period pain have gone to work despite it. Seventy-one percent admitted that they have normalised working with pain.

Cabinet showdown

The proposed menstrual leave policy will be debated in cabinet next week when the Council of Ministers debates and approves the broader abortion and contraception reforms. According to sources in the Spanish media, and many cabinet ministers themselves, it seems a consensus on menstruation leave is a long way off.




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