Some British residents forced to stop driving as right to use a UK licence ends

Spain and Britain have not yet agreed a simple post-Brexit process for swapping to a Spanish- issued licence

SUR IN ENGLISH MALAGA.

Before Brexit it was relatively simple for a resident in Spain with a UK licence to swap to a local licence under EU rules. Not anymore.

From the start of May, all those still driving in Spain on British-issued licences and who have been resident in the country more than six months have to stop driving. The alternative is to take a driving test to get a Spanish licence. People on holiday or short stays in Spain are unaffected and a UK licence is still valid.

It had been hoped, post-Brexit, that the two governments would agree to a simple swapping procedure, as both have with many other countries.

However a hold-up in the lengthy negotiations (which are still ongoing) means a temporary bridging arrangement allowing UK or Gibraltar licences still to be used in Spain has now expired.

UK Ambassador Hugh Elliott. / E.P.

Writing on his Twitter account, British Ambassador Hugh Elliott said the delay was down to coordinating the high degree of information exchange requested by the Spanish authorities from the UK as part of the deal.

It is thought that potentially thousands of Britons have been caught out, without the right to drive. Driving without a valid licence can lead to fines or invalidate insurance, motoring experts said.

The British Embassy has recently been telling expats that, while it was hopeful of an agreement, those who needed to drive should go down the route of taking the tests.

This route to a Spanish test is considerably more expensive than a simple swap. The theory test can be taken in English but the practical test has to be taken in Spanish. There has also been criticism of the number of slots for tests available.

Anne Hernández, of campaigning group Brexpats in Spain International, told SUR in English that not everyone affected had been slow to swap before the original Brexit deadline. "Many people were given misinformation or wrong professional advice on registering to swap just before Brexit and thousands have also arrived since Brexit on visas," she said. "I feel sorry for those in the countryside or who need to drive to schools or to work," she added.