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BREXIT

REVEALED: UK drivers in Spain face ‘new problem’ when taking Spanish driving test

In the event that an exchange deal cannot be reached, UK licence holders who sit their driving exams again in Spain will face higher costs or even the impossibility of driving. 

insurance problem drivers resitting their test in Spain could face
New Spanish licence holders will be viewed as learners even if they have years of driving experience in their home or other countries. Photo: ITV

If you’re reading this article, there’s a high chance that you’re familiar with the background of this Brexit consequence. 

Thousands of UK driving licence holders (that includes UK nationals, Spaniards and other foreign nationals) who have been residents in Spain for more than six months have not been allowed to drive on Spanish roads since May 1st 2022

The failure of the UK and Spanish governments to reach a deal over the exchange of UK-issued licences for Spanish ones means that, as things stand, the only way affected people can get behind the wheel once more is by passing their driving exam again in Spain. 

There was the option of registering intent to exchange licences but many didn’t make the deadline, and as has been proven before, in many cases this was not due to slackness, but rather all manner of circumstances, from moving to Spain after the cut-off date to bureaucratic issues.

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

On June 20th, the British Ambassador to Spain said that they were looking at having affected drivers “back on the road around the end of July”

But during his latest weekly update on July 15th, this prospective date was not mentioned and judging by his tone there is little to suggest the driving licence debacle will be fixed before Spain ‘closes down’ for August.

Some of these in-limbo drivers are now deciding to bite the bullet and sit their driving exams in Spanish (at least the practical part, that is).

But there is one other major downside which many may have not considered before. 

If and when they pass, these often seasoned drivers are considered learner drivers (conductores noveles) in the eyes of Spain’s DGT. 

Aside from having to put an L sign in their rear window, they will be viewed as learners when it comes to taking out insurance for the vehicles they purchase or when they rent a car in Spain.

It’s a catch-22 situation that many young drivers face in Spain, as well as other non-EU drivers whose foreign licences aren’t recognised in Spain and have to resit the test.

Insurance companies and car rental companies are private entities, and thus are under no obligation to offer their services to people with a new Spanish driving licence. 

It’s compulsory to have third-party insurance when owning a car in Spain (responsabilidad civil), but many insurance companies either don’t offer insurance to these ‘higher-risk’ drivers or charge far higher rates. 

They don’t factor in any previous years of experience these drivers have in their home or other countries as they are considered novice drivers in Spain. 

Other drivers with a new Spanish driving licence complain that insurance companies refuse to offer them a no-claim discount, which is a reduction in the cost of your car insurance if you don’t make a claim. 

According to Spanish price comparison website Rastreator, it is possible to find third-party insurance for learner drivers for less than €400 per year, although for more comprehensive insurance (a todo riesgo), prices can reach up to €1,800 per year.

As for renting a vehicle from a rental car company in Spain, a similar dilemma arises. 

Some car rental car companies have the policy of not renting out a vehicle to drivers with a Spanish licence less than two years old.

Again, as both car insurance and car rental companies are private, each has its own set of conditions, meaning that it will be a case of having to phone around and find out if – and for how much – insuring or renting a vehicle is possible. 

It is also unclear currently whether UK licence holders who own a car in Spain which was insured prior to May 1st 2022 will be able to continue being insured or enjoying the same rates as they did previously when they get a Spanish licence. 

This is the latest unforeseen consequence of Brexit for UK nationals living in Spain, and another example of why they feel they have fewer rights than British tourists visiting the country. 

Have you experienced any of these or other related issues when getting your Spanish driving licence? Write to us at [email protected] to have your say.

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For members

BANKING

Banking giant Barclays to close all accounts of Brits living in Spain

UK nationals living in Spain have begun to receive letters from their bank telling them that their accounts will be closed, in an apparent post-Brexit change. Have you been affected?

Banking giant Barclays to close all accounts of Brits living in Spain

Customers of Barclays Bank who are living in Spain and other EU countries have been receiving letters telling them that their UK accounts will be closed by the end of the year. 

A number of readers of The Local’s network of news websites have contacted us to report receiving either letters or messages in their online banking telling them that their accounts would be closed because of their residency in Spain or in other countries in the EU.

A Barclays spokesperson told The Local: “As a ring fenced bank, our Barclays UK products are designed for customers within the UK.

“We will no longer be offering services to personal current account or savings customers (excluding ISAs) within the European Economic Area. We are contacting impacted customers to give them advance notice of this decision and outline the next steps they need to take.”  

Customers are being given six months to make alternative arrangements. The changes affect all personal current accounts or savings accounts, but do not affect ISAs, loans or mortgages.

During the Brexit transition period Barclays closed Barclaycard accounts of customers in Spain, but did not indicate any changes to standard bank accounts.

READ MORE: 

Around the same time several other British high street banks began closing accounts of British customers who live in the EU, although with the exception of Barclaycard customers in Spain who were largely spared.

Many UK nationals who live in Spain maintain at least one UK bank account – in addition to a Spanish account – sometimes just for savings but others use their accounts regularly to receive income such as pensions or income from rental property or – for remote workers – to receive income for work done in the UK.

Not having a UK bank account can make financial transactions in the UK more complicated or incur extra banking fees.

READ MORE: What are the best UK banks for Brits in Spain?

Since Brexit, the UK banking sector no longer has access to the ‘passporting’ system which allows banks to operate in multiple EU countries without having to apply for a separate banking licence for each country.

And it seems that many UK high street banks are deciding that the extra paperwork is not worth the hassle and are withdrawing completely from certain EU markets. 

When British banks began withdrawing services from customers in the EU back in 2020, a UK government spokesman told British newspaper The Times that “the provision of banking services is a commercial decision for firms based on a number of factors” so Brits in Spain probably shouldn’t hold their breath for any help from that direction.

READ ALSO: Premium Bond holders in Spain may have to cash in if no UK bank account

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