Another week, another update on the UK driving licence debacle in Spain. This time nonetheless, there’s perhaps a bit more reason for hope.
In his weekly Facebook video update, British ambassador to Spain HMA Hugh Elliott started off with words that no doubt made the potentially thousands of UK licence holders in Spain who haven’t been able to drive for the past 50 days despair that bit further.
“We’re continuing to work every day on this,” Elliott said. “I know what you want to know is exactly when you’re going to be able to drive again and I still cannot give you a precise date I’m afraid”.
However, the ambassador was willing to share some insight into what they’ve “been doing in the negotiations”, “what the next steps we’re taking are” and, crucially, “what sort of timescale we’re talking about”.
“The good news is that the UK and Spain are now in agreement on the core issues that have been problematic and we’re now very close to finalising the actual text of the agreement,” he explained.
“Once that’s happened, possibly as early as next week, there are various legal clearances, language checks and final political approvals that we and the Spanish need to go through,” he added.
“The processes are not entirely in UK hands, which is partly why I can’t be more definitive and I can’t make promises. But our best estimate is that we’re looking at a date of having you back on the road around the end of July,” he stated.
As this is an international treaty, there are certain procedures they have to go through, Elliott pointed out, including the need for formal approval from the Spanish cabinet (Council of Ministers).
What remains unclear is whether Spanish authorities will treat this as a matter of urgency, and whether it will need further approval in the Spanish Parliament for the law to come into effect, as is usually the case in Spain (something which takes several weeks if not months).
Elliott acknowledged that even though a deal is likely weeks away, many have been facing great difficulties as a result of their inability to drive in Spain.
The announcement comes after at least 18 months of negotiations and 4 extensions of the validity of UK licences granted by Spanish authorities, as well as countless updates by the British Embassy in Madrid.
British residents in Spain have had mixed reactions to this latest June 17th update.
While many of the drivers affected remain very angry about the ongoing delay and don’t understand why there can’t be another extension which allows them to drive while the deal is finalised, others continue to show little sympathy for those in limbo, arguing that they should have registered to exchange their licence before the 2021 deadline.
There is evidence that many have fallen between the cracks through no fault of their own, and for those who rely on their cars to live a normal life in Spain (rural or another setting), the situation is getting desperate and there is a lot of anger.
Since May 1st 2022, thousands of UK licence holders who’ve resided in Spain for six months or more have been unable to drive with their UK licences, even though the vast majority of EU nations have long struck deals with the UK post-Brexit for the easy exchange of driving licences.
They are a “minority” of the 407,000 UK nationals who are officially residents in 2022, as many of them did exchange their licence for a Spanish one before the deadline at the end of 2020 as advised.
If a deal is indeed finalised by the end of July, they will have been unable to drive in Spain for almost three months.
The British Embassy in Madrid continues to advise residents who are unable to drive in Spain to explore local support options such as charities although Elliott did say “If you find yourself truly vulnerable or know somebody who is, do contact your local consulate”.