THE BRITISH ambassador to Spain, Hugh Elliott, has categorically ruled out that the delay to reaching a post-Brexit deal on driving licence exchange has anything to do with negotiations relating to Gibraltar.
The claim was made by the diplomat during a meeting last week at the British embassy with members of a Facebook campaign group set up for residents of Spain who either did not or were unable to exchange their UK driving licences for Spanish ones before a December 2020 deadline.
These people have been unable to legally drive in the country since May 1 while Spain and the UK continue to negotiate over post-Brexit arrangements.
Four members of the Facebook group, titled “Invasion of the British embassy in Madrid for the DL exchange issue”, sat down last week with Elliott to voice their concerns over the ongoing situation, which has seen many left unable to shop, work, visit family or make hospital appointments.
In a detailed account of the meeting posted on Facebook on Monday, one of the attendees stated that the ambassador was “extremely clear” that the delay to talks is not linked to “wider negotiations” about the future relationship between Gibraltar and Spain now that the UK has left the European Union.
This was later confirmed to The Olive Press by two other sources with knowledge of the meeting.
According to the group’s account of the talks with the ambassador and other embassy staff last week, Elliott said that there were “two technical issues” still to be resolved.
This was repeated by the ambassador in the latest of his video updates on the situation, which was published on Friday on the British embassy’s social media accounts.
In May, Spain’s DGT traffic authority and the UK authorities confirmed that the sticking point in the negotiations was a request by the British side to keep two issues separate. These were Spain’s access to data for UK-registered vehicles that committed traffic offences in Spain, and the driving licence exchange.
Both sides of the negotiation confirmed to this reporter in May that a solution would only be a few weeks away. However, nearly six months have passed and no concrete reason for the delay has been offered by either the UK or Spanish authorities.
While there is no official number of people who have been left unable to drive, the Facebook group now has more than 700 members. The issue is not just affecting UK nationals, but also Irish, Spanish and German drivers who hold a UK-issued licence.
Speculation has been rife among the victims of the situation that Gibraltar was the source of the delay in the talks. Spain has long contested the sovereignty of “The Rock”, as the British Overseas Territory is known.
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