16 Jan, 2023 @ 15:24
2 mins read

UK embassy offers update on driving licence debacle, but still with no end in sight

U Turn With Logo Campaign
Photo: Pixlr/Flickr

THE UK Embassy in Spain released an update on Monday about the ongoing driving licence debacle, but it will provide little comfort for those residents of the country who have been left unable to drive since May 1, 2022.

The short text, which was posted on the diplomatic mission’s social media accounts, stated that ‘work continued over the holidays’, that the ‘legal checks’ on a deal ‘have now been completed on both sides’, and that the ‘final processes required for an international treaty are now underway’.

The agreement, the message continues, will be going forward to the Spanish Cabinet for approval. As the embassy had previously confirmed, once the deal has been published in Spain’s Official State Bulletin (BOE), it will come into force and residents who hold UK driving licences will finally be able to get back on the roads.

As with previous messages from the embassy about the debacle, however, there was no indication as to when this will all happen. ‘While we have no control over the scheduling, we hope the [Cabinet meeting] will be tabled very soon,’ the message reads.

The ban from the roads for UK licence holders resident in Spain who were unable to – or did not – exchange their documents before a December 20202 deadline began on May 1, 2022, as both sides continued negotiations on post-Brexit arrangements. 

Back then, both sides of the negotiations pointed to information exchange about drivers for the purpose of traffic fines as being the sticking point, with the UK wanting to keep that separate from licence exchange. 

But since then there has been near total silence from Spain and the UK as to the reasons why the process is taking so long, something that has left many victims of the situation furious and in some cases resigned to having to leave the country and move back home.

Previous requests for information made by The Olive Press at the DGT traffic authority were referred to the Foreign Affairs Ministry, who made no response to the same questions. The embassy, meanwhile, referred to their online statements. 

Residents left in this situation have regularly expressed their anger over first having to spend the summer unable to legally drive, then Christmas, and now are reaching new levels of desperation as the New Year begins and the one-year anniversary of the situation starts to loom. 

‘I keep hoping that no news is because this really will be over very soon,’ wrote one user in the Facebook campaigning group, Invasion of the British Embassy in Madrid for the Driving Licence Exchange Issue. ‘Please, please, please!’ she added. 

British embassy meeting
Members of the Invasion of the British Embassy Facebook group during their meeting with British Ambassador Hugh Elliott (c) in autumn of last year.

‘I don’t know how we would have endured without the help of our amazing friends who live next door,’ another said. ‘Please get this sorted, don’t let us down again.’

One user, however, saw hope in the fact that the embassy’s latest post encouraged UK licence holders in Spain to book their psychophysical aptitude tests, which will need to be passed in order to swap the document for a Spanish one. 

‘If you haven’t done it before, the psicotecnico is a short test to check your eyesight and reactions,’ the embassy explained. ‘You may also have a brief interview with a doctor.’

‘The recommendation that we should now get the [tests] done is also very positive, it means they expect signature very soon,’ speculated one user in the Facebook campaign group. 

Until there is another update, however, the rest of the victims of the driving licence debacle will just have to keep on holding their collective breath. 

U-Turn campaign??

The Olive Press has been highlighting the issue affecting readers across Spain with its ‘U-turn campaign’, and is determined to shine a light on their experiences in the hope of adding pressure on the authorities to make it a priority to resolve the problem.

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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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