No-deal Brexit: British expats in EU may have to retake driving tests if UK leaves without deal

No-deal Brexit: British expats in EU may have to retake driving tests if UK leaves without deal
No-deal Brexit: British expats in EU may have to retake driving tests if UK leaves without deal

British people living in Europe may be forced to sit a new driving test in the wake of a no-deal Brexit, according to Government advice.

On Monday, the Department for Transport issued new guidance for expats who are currently allowed to drive in the EU on their UK licences.

In it, it warns: “in the event that there is no EU Exit deal, you may have to pass a driving test in the EU country you live in to be able to carry on driving there”.

It urges affected motorists to exchange their UK licence for a local EU one before March 29, 2019 and warns that as the date of Britain’s exit from the EU approaches demand and processing delays are likely to increase.

At the moment all British drivers, whether visiting or resident in an EU or EEA country can drive with just their UK licence.

Permit problems

The advice also warns that drivers visiting the EU will need to make sure they have the correct international driving permit (IDP) in the case of a no-deal Brexit and may require more than one, depending on the countries they visit.

no-deal driving licence
Currently, motorists are free to drive in Europe with just their UK licence. Picture: Shutterstock

Currently, the Government issues two IDPs – the 1926 IDP and the 1949 IDP. From March 29, 2019, a third one will be added – the 1968 IDP.

While most EU and EEA countries will accept the 1968 permit some, including Spain, Cyprus, Malta and Iceland, will require drivers to carry a 1949 IDP. That means a driver travelling between France and Spain or Spain and Portugal will need two different permits or a local driving licence.

Only Ireland doesn’t require foreign drivers to carry any form of IDP.

The £5.50 permits are currently available online from the AA and RAC but from the end of January they will only be available over the counter at certain post offices.

Backward step

The AA President, Edmund King, said the arrangement was a “backward step” and warned some drivers could be turned back at ports if they don’t have the correct documents.

He told the Guardian: “Thousands of expats, many of them elderly, will not relish the prospect of having to retake their driving test in a different country and different language if there is no deal.

“Drivers without the appropriate IDPs could also be turned back at the ports. Currently they could obtain an IDP from the AA shop at the Eurotunnel port, but that won’t be allowed after the end of this month.

“It’s another thing which is a real mess and could potentially catch people out. It really does seem a backward step that drivers will no longer be able to apply for IDPs in the post.”

The AA’s Edmund King has warned drivers could be turned back at ports if they don’t have the correct permits. Picture: Shutterstock

Unforeseen consequences

Asher Ismail, CEO of driving school service Midrive, commented: The arguments for and against Brexit did not indulge all the ins and outs of what would actually happen to the hundreds of agreements we currently have with the EU. This is another consequence which I believe most didn’t even consider when casting their vote.

Not only will IDPs likely be in hot demand but those living abroad who are happily using their pink licence better start revising for a practical lesson in their new place of residence. Our driving licence will go from one of the most valuable in the world to potentially one of the weakest.”

Rod Dennis, the RAC’s Europe spokesperson added: “Following the publication of new guidance by the Government, UK nationals living elsewhere in the EU should think about whether they want to exchange their UK driving licence for an EU one.

“As things stand, in the event of the UK exiting without a deal, UK residents living in the EU may be required to take a driving test depending on the EU state in which they are living. They can avoid the prospect of having to do this by applying for an EU licence in the country they are living in now.

“UK nationals who in future return to the UK from the EU will be permitted to swap their EU licence for a UK one without needing to take another driving test, providing they passed their test in the UK.”

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