17 Jun, 2022 @ 19:15
5 mins read

U-TURN CAMPAIGN: Olive Press making big inroads with driving licence exchange petition

Road To Nowhere With Logo
Caption: Pixlr/Flickr

AN Olive Press campaign to allow resident Brits without a Spanish licence back on the road is gathering speed.

A pair of expat councillors have joined hundreds of supporters of our U-Turn campaign, we launched last issue.

We have been overwhelmed by the support for our campaign from all walks of life, no pun intended.

And despite the British Embassy insisting that an agreement is inching closer, we are not taking our foot off the pedal.

We intend to keep flooring it until a deal has been signed between the UK and Spanish government.

Big wig backing

A PAIR of popular expat councillors on the Costa del Sol and the Costa Blanca have jumped to support our campaign.

Darren Parmenter, the councillor for Tourism and International Relations in San Fulgencio, in Alicante, praised us for our stance and insisted we needed to keep the pressure on.

Parmenter, 61, from London, said: “It’s great that someone is sticking up for Brits, who are too often forgotten about.”

Darren Snip 1
Darren Parmeter is backing us.
Photo: Darren Parmeter.

And he added: “I am hopeful there will be an agreement soon, there has to be otherwise Spain will be left out in the cold on its own.”

He even insisted on bringing up the matter with the ambassador Hugh Elliot as part of the recent Queen’s Jubilee celebrations.

Meanwhile the Councillor of Tourism, in Benahavis, Scott Marshall got behind the cause. 

“I am amazed there are agreements with almost all other EU countries but not Spain.

“How can the Spanish government make driving in Spain easier if you are a British tourist than a resident?” added the British politician, who has worked at the town hall for three years.

“The rules have not been clear from the start and there has not been enough information provided to people. Well done for helping them out.”

The 47-year-old, who was born in Spain to British parents, added: “This needs to be sorted out now, Brits are being punished for no reason whatsoever. I am fully backing the Olive Press on this.”

Official line 

While nothing has yet been signed, British ambassador Hugh Elliott insisted negotiations ‘continue to progress well’ on an agreement.

He added he was ‘confident we are nearly there’, but was once again scant on details. 

While on June 2 he announced Brits would be given a six-month leeway period to swap their licence once a deal had been struck, he couldn’t say when this would be.

Hugh Elliott Snip 1
Hugh Elliott has been at the forefront of negotiations.
Photo: Wikipedia.

Critics also insisted six months would not be long enough.

“It should be more than a six month time period,” councillor Parmenter insisted. “At the very least, it should be six months to allow Brits to declare their interest alone, given how many examples there are of people getting stuck in bureaucracy.”

A wheel for a wheel? 

British fintech entrepreneur Paul Roberts told the Olive Press it is time to play hardball in negotiations.

“It is time for tough measures. All Spaniards driving in the UK should have their licence suspended until we have a resolution to this disgraceful situation,” the 54-year-old insisted.

The tech maestro, who runs a Welsh startup from his home on the Costa del Sol, had been considering moving his entire team over to Malaga city, which is styling itself as Spain’s answer to Silicon Valley.

“I have now beached these plans. Not only is it extremely inconvenient for us Brits, it also makes us all feel extremely unwelcome,” he said. 

“They all need their heads banging together and take more decisive action if the Spanish carry on their intransigence.”

He said the UK government should give’ a week’s deadline’ to agree the deal and then stop all Spanish drivers in the UK.

He is furious as despite trying on many occasions to swap his licence, calls to Spain driving body, the DGT, were left unanswered. 

The father-of-three now has to rely on taxis to get his kids to school.

He also took aim at the UK ambassador. “The British government and Hugh Elliott have been far too lax on this. The time has come to take a firm line or this is going to go on forever. An eye for an eye… a car for a car. 

“Well done to the team at the Olive Press for putting the pressure on!” continued the Welshman.

Girl Power

Social media group, Ladies Driving in Spain, has also joined the campaign.

The advice page has provided a litany of testimonies from its 700-strong membership.

They revealed they had heard ‘countless horror stories’ in particular lawyers telling members they couldn’t exchange their licences until they received their residencias. 

“All of them applied before the deadline but by the time they received recidencía it was too late to register intent,” said founder Trinny Vickers.

The mother-of-two, 34, was told by the DGT not to worry, as she is Irish but holds a UK licence.

However, she has since discovered the law applies to all UK licence holders, irrespective of their nationality.

Consequently she is now stuck in Albox, Almeria in a deeply rural area with no public transport. 

“Thousands have done the medicals which should have allowed them to exchange before the deadline but this is apparently not registering intent, which many people thought it was.”

In a truly shocking state of affairs, she revealed that one of its members – an elderly woman who lived in a rural area with no public transport – recently committed suicide following her husband’s death.

After the woman – who didn’t want to be named – became stranded at home because of the licence debacle, she felt life was no longer worth living.

“Thank you for sticking up for us, we are fully behind the Olive Press”, Vickers said.

Unhappy camper

Another victim, Deb Lee, 63, told the Olive Press: “Thank you so much for taking up this fight.”

She has had a nightmare since she retired to Spain in September 2020 and immediately tried to get her residency and licence sorted via a local British expat, who styled herself as an ‘independent advisor’.

However she turned out to be ‘a charlatan’ and had no idea of the rules in place. 

Astonishingly, Deb was told that the deadline had passed, when in fact the DGT allowed Brits to

register their intention to exchange their licence before December 30, 2020.

Deb Lee Snip 1
Deb Lee says enough is enough.
Photo: Deb Lee.

This left her stranded in the small inland town of Crevillente on the Costa Blanca.

“I was so isolated. I had no one to help me and the shops for food were too far away,” she explained.

So bad was her situation, with her husband working full time in England as a lorry driver, she recently had to move to a campsite in Catral just so she has a food supply nearby.

“If it hadn’t been for the support I have got from the Ladies Driving in Spain facebook group, I honestly think I would have done myself in,” she added.

“We are simply pawns in a political game. They keep saying it’s a matter of weeks, but they have been saying that for months now.”

Support our campaign by signing the parliamentary petition HERE.

Or get in touch with your own stories by emailing [email protected].

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George Mathias

George is an NCTJ trained-journalist who moved from London to Spain's Costa del Sol and joined the Olive Press in February 2022. He has previous experience working at the Basingstoke Gazette and Reach. Contact him [email protected]

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