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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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BREXIT

What is the latest on Gibraltar’s Brexit status?

With 2023 approaching and negotiations between Gibraltar, the UK, EU and Spain dragging on for yet another year, what is the latest on Gibraltar and Brexit? Will they reach a deal before New Year and how could it affect life in Gibraltar and Spain?

What is the latest on Gibraltar's Brexit status?

As British politics tries to move on from Brexit, the tiny British territory at the southern tip of Spain, Gibraltar, has been stuck in political limbo since the referendum all the way back in 2016.

Gibraltar, which voted in favour of Remain during the referendum by a whopping 96 percent, was not included in the Brexit deal and has instead relied on a framework agreement made between the UK and Spain on New Year’s Eve in 2020.

After that framework was laid out, it was hoped that the various parties – that is, the Gibraltarian government, Spain, the EU, and the UK – would build on it and quickly find a wider treaty agreement establishing Gibraltar’s place on the European mainland in the post-Brexit world.

It was thought that Gibraltar could enter into a common travel area with the Schengen zone, limiting border controls and essentially creating a custom-made customs arrangement with the EU.

But since then, the negotiation process has stopped and started, with no deal being made and uncertainty dragging on through 2021.

Despite all parties still being relatively optimistic in the spring of 2022, no resolution has been found and 2023 is approaching.

Relying on the framework agreement alone, uncertainty about what exactly the rules are and how they should be implemented have caused confusion and long delays on the border.

The roadblocks

Progress in the multi-faceted negotiations to bash out a treaty and determine Gibraltar’s place in the post-Brexit world have repeatedly stumbled over the same roadblocks.

The main one is the issue of the border. Known in Spain and Gibraltar as La Línea – meaning ‘the line’ in reference to the Spanish town directly across the border, La Línea de la Concepción – the subject of the border and who exactly will patrol it (and on which side) has been a constant sticking point in negotiations.

Madrid and Brussels have approached the British government with a proposal for removing the border fence between Spain and Gibraltar in order to ease freedom of movement, Spain’s Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares said in late November 2022. There has been no immediate response from London.

The Gibraltarians refuse to accept Spanish boots on the ground and would prefer the European-wide Frontex border force. The British government feel this would be an impingement on British sovereignty. There’s also been the persistent issues of VAT and corporation tax considerations, as well as the British Navy base and how to police the waters around it.

Though there had been reports that the ongoing British driving license in Spain fiasco had been one of the reasons negotiations had stalled, the British ambassador to Spain Hugh Elliot categorically denied any connection between the issue of Gibraltar’s Brexit deal and British driving licence recognition earlier in November.

READ ALSO: CONFIRMED: Deal on UK licences in Spain agreed but still no exchange date

On different pages?

Not only do the long-standing sticking points remain, but it also seems that the various negotiating parties are on slightly different pages with regards to how exactly each seems to think the negotiations are going.

Judging by reports in the Spanish press in recent weeks, it appears that many in Spain may believe the negotiations are wrapping up and a conclusion could be found by New Year. This perception comes largely from comments made by Pascual Navarro, Spain’s State Secretary to the EU. Speaking to reporters in Brussels, Navarro claimed that negotiations have advanced so well that they were now only working ‘on the commas’ of the text – that is to say, tidying it up.

According to Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, though negotiations are ongoing, “we’re not there yet”. (Photo: JORGE GUERRERO/AFP)

“No issue that is blocked,” he said. “All of the text is on the table.” A full treaty, he suggested, could be signed “before the end of the year.”

Yet it seems the Gibraltarians don’t quite see the progress as positively as their neighbours. Last week the Gibraltar government, known as No.6, acknowledged Navarro’s optimism.

According to Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo however, though negotiations are ongoing, “we’re not there yet”.

No.6 remains positive and hopes for a deal, but in recent weeks has also published technical contingency plans for businesses to prepare for what they are calling a ‘Non-Negotiated Outcome’ – effectively a ‘no-deal’ in normal Brexit jargon.

The UK, however, seem to be somewhere in the middle. Like Navarro, the British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly recently suggested at a House of Commons select committee that only “a relatively small number” of issues remain to be resolved.

However, he also acknowledged the possibility of a non-negotiated outcome. “I think it’s legitimate to look at that [planning for a non-negotiated outcome] as part of our thinking,” Mr Cleverly said. “But obviously we are trying to avoid an NNO.”

Election year

If no deal is found by New Year, that would mean that negotiations drag into 2023 – election years for both Picardo and Pedro Sánchez, Spain’s Prime Minister.

Gibraltar is expected to have elections sometime in the second-half of the year, and Sánchez has to call an election by the end of 2023.

In many ways, Spanish domestic politics has the potential to play a far greater role in Gibraltar’s fate than British politics. In fact, the shadow of Spanish politics looms over these negotiations and the future relationship between Spain and Gibraltar, the UK and Spain, and the UK and EU.

If Sánchez’s PSOE were to lose the election, which according to the latest polling data is the most probable outcome, then it would be likely that Spain’s centre-right party PP would seek to renegotiate, if not outright reject, any deal made.

READ ALSO: Who will win Spain’s 2023 election – Sánchez or Feijóo?

If PP are unable to secure a ruling majority, however, they may well be forced to rely on the far-right party Vox, who have often used nationalist anti-Gibraltar rhetoric as a political weapon. If Vox were to enter into government, which is unlikely but a possibility, it’s safe to say any agreement – if one is even reached before then – would be torn up and the Spanish government would take a much harder line in negotiations.

As the consequences of Brexit churn on in Britain, in Gibraltar uncertainty looms.

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