Brexit could stall our driving rights on the continent

by Joel Baccas | 31.01.2019

Besides a sea-crossing, right now there’s nothing stopping you jumping in your car and driving through any of the 27 other EU countries. That’s because, as members of the EU, Brits are legally allowed to drive from Toledo to Tallinn, Athens to Aarhus, without having to pass a test in the country you happen to be speeding through.

If your driving licence is issued by one EU country then it is recognised by the other EU members and vice versa. This is thanks to EU Directive 2006/126, Article 2 of which says “driving licences issued by Member States shall be mutually recognised”. It really is that simple.

This is also a good demonstration of how the EU works. Each country agrees to a rule like this which benefits their own citizens but must give other EU citizens the same treatment.

And it’s a good example of how being in the EU makes it so easy to live, work and retire across an entire continent. In many non-EU countries you can use a UK driving licence for short stays, but need to apply for an international licence or one from that country for longer stays. There’s none of that hassle in the EU.

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As ever with Brexit, a “no deal” scenario would be the worst for our European driving rights. As Article 50 says, all the treaties will cease to apply. This means that all EU law that is recognised in the UK stops in a no deal Brexit. UK driving licences will not be recognised in the EU under this legislation and would be subject to individual Member States’ own rules therefore breaking the harmony of law that we have enjoyed.

On January 19 the government issued its technical notice detailing that you may need to obtain an International Driving Permit. This is only valid for 12 months and you need to take it with you in addition to your national driving licence.

The government has also advised UK citizens living on the continent that they should consider exchanging their UK driving licence for an EU driving licence as soon as possible. Increased demand may lead to longer processing times and delays to exchanging driving licences the closer it is to 29 March 2019.

People will be able to drive on their EU licences when visiting the UK. If you return to live in the UK, provided you passed your driving test in the UK (or another specified country), you can exchange your EU licence for a UK licence without taking another test.

This is just one extra drawback that will affect UK citizens on top of the countless other benefits we gain thanks to EU law. With the losses of Brexit stacking up, and deadlock in Parliament bringing the “no deal” deadline ever closer, it’s time for MPs to back a People’s Vote – and ask if they want to leave behind all the benefits of the EU after all.

Edited by Luke Lythgoe

Tags: , , Categories: Brexit

5 Responses to “Brexit could stall our driving rights on the continent”

  • There are so many unknowns and no one is coming clean or being transparent. As well as driving regulations, I have asked my MP (the ERG hard Brexiter, Suella Braverman) on five occasions about EU261/2004 and EHIC arrangements. No answers. She ignores what you say (does she even read my letters?) and replies with a lecture about the benefits of WTO rules (I kid you not).
    As a frequent visitor to Europe, I know many British ‘ex-pats’ who are scared stiff about what is going to happen (many of them elderly). Many retired to warmer climes, their decision enabled by the rights as citizens of the EU. Now, this terrible government is hell bent on leaving the EU (whatever it takes) and these people are being abandoned. It is cruel, uncaring and immoral.
    Some people who sold up in Britain in the 1990s and bought properties in the EU are trapped. They cannot afford property in the UK in 2019 because they will have to sell at a loss.
    This is the real world. May tries to make jokes in the HofC giving the pretence of caring. She is clueless. Her world is a red folder, getting in a car in Downing Street and going to the HofC in a police escorted convoy. That’s it. Oh, she goes to church! And spends weekends at Chequers having scones and tea in the afternoon brought in on a silver trolley by a butler. Millions of people are having their lives wrecked by this stupid woman. Party before people. They are the utter pits.

  • Your piece on driving licences. I live in Spain and applied to the Jefatura de Trafico for an appointment to exchange my British driving licence for a Spanish one. The first available appointment is 3 June! The Jefatura has insufficient staff to process the 1000s of licences required to be exhanged before 29 march. I phoned the British Consulate. The position is the same all over Spain. Brexit stinks.

  • I left the UK in 2010 to retire to France. Best move I ever made. I own my house outright – no mortgage. I have a French driving licence (free exchange for my UK one). Weather is milder, (we actually do get summers here!) and neighbours friendly (I think they’re a little sorry for me and the other ex-pats). The roads are virtually empty, except at rush hour. Just been to see the doctor who spent an hour giving me the once-over – not 5 mins like in the UK. We have already been told by the French that they want us to stay (our financial contribution to their economy is substantial). The only down side to Brexit is whether the UK will continue to pay for my healthcare (which they should since I’ve paid NI contributions all my life) and the exchange rate (which may actually catapult upwards if May’s deal goes through). I couldn’t care less what happens to little England and it’s ignorant Brexiteers and I’d be quite happy to ditch my British citizenship right now for what it’s worth. As a Scot, I look forward to the inevitable divorce of Scotland from the UK and their equally inevitable request to join the EU (which will probably be (very) fast-tracked). I’ll then have the best of all possible worlds.

  • P.s. And I’m sorry if all that sounded very selfish, but why not ? I didn’t ask for this so I see no reason why I shouldn’t be as selfish as the 17.4 million who effectively gave me, and the other 5 million ex-pats in the EU and the UK, the finger.

  • Not selfish at all, John. You made a great life decision based on the fact you were a citizen of the EU. Well done. The politicians have no right to take away rights and privileges that have been part of our lives since 1973. They are divorced from ordinary day to day life. The U.K. is declining rapidly but we have liars in the Commons who act irresponsibly. They are seemingly unaccountable as well; the worst example being the arrogant Cameron who has walked away from the chaos he created and now holidays in Costa Rica in a hotel charging £1500 per night. And they conned the working people into thinking all their problems were caused by the EU. I wake up every day and cannot believe all of this is happening. Someone tell me this is just a bad nightmare.