18 Oct, 2022 @ 18:44
2 mins read

Members of ‘Invade British Embassy’ Facebook group meet with ambassador to discuss driving licence debacle

British embassy meeting

REPRESENTATIVES from a Facebook group that brings together victims of the driving licence debacle in Spain today travelled to Madrid for a meeting at the British embassy.

“We had a constructive meeting and we felt we were listened to,” the representatives told The Olive Press after the encounter. “We covered who is affected, the financial impacts, health and wellbeing impacts, challenges with the driving test, police and cost. We questioned the timing and legality of the ban. 

“The ambassador is going to do an update on Thursday or Friday acknowledging the meeting and points raised,” they added. “He reiterated his previous update in that he genuinely believes they are approaching the end of the negotiations.”

The Facebook group, titled “Invasion of the British Embassy in Madrid”, was originally set up by Pascal Siegmund in a bid to organise protests at the diplomatic mission in the Spanish capital. There were also plans to demonstrate at local traffic departments in Spain’s provinces for those who could not travel to Madrid. 

Among the group, however, it was agreed that these protests would be put on hold until Siegmund held his meeting at the embassy.

Accompanying Pascal at the meeting were Roger Jenkins, who is from Wales and travelled from Malaga, Theo Laverty, who is from Northern Ireland and lives in Madrid, and Jokin Mena Salsamendi, who is from San Sebastián in Spain’s Basque Country. 

Driving License Meeting Embassy
From left to right: Theo Laverty, Pascal Siegmund, Roger Jenkins and Jokin Mena Salsamendi at the British embassy in Madrid on Tuesday.

Ambassador Hugh Elliott said: “We had a productive meeting with the group and it was valuable to be reminded again just how much the inability to drive is affecting people and to hear their members’ personal stories.

“I would like to thank them for taking the time to meet with us and the considered way they brought their issues to our attention. I do not underestimate the impact this is having on people and we are doing all we can to support the negotiations taking place between DfT and the Spanish Interior Ministry

“We understand how difficult this situation is for people and, as we explained to the group, we have consistently asked Spain to reintroduce the interim measures that would enable those affected to drive whilst negotiations go on, but this has not been granted.

“As we have said from the start, negotiations are complex and take time. We continue to make progress and would encourage UK licence holders to stay up to date on our Brits in Spain Facebook page.”

Residents of Spain who still hold UK driving licences have been unable to legally take to the roads since May 1, while post-Brexit negotiations between the two countries have continued. 

Initially the sticking point between the two sides was on vehicle information exchange, but the fact that there is still no deal and no information is being released by either side on the talks has suggested that there are other issues on the table. 

Many of those affected by the situation – the Facebook group has nearly 600 members – suspect that negotiations on the post-Brexit future relationship between Spain and Gibraltar are involved.

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Simon Hunter

Simon Hunter has been living in Madrid since the year 2000 and has worked as a journalist and translator practically since he arrived. For 16 years he was at the English Edition of Spanish daily EL PAÍS, editing the site from 2014 to 2022, and is currently one of the Spain reporters at The Times. He is also a voice actor, and can be heard telling passengers to "mind the gap" on Spain's AVLO high-speed trains.

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