UK Ambassador to Spain Hugh Elliott on Friday November 18th took to the embassy’s social media channels to announce some promising news that will give hope at the very least to the thousands of UK licence holders who haven’t been able to drive in Spain since May 1st.
“I can tell you today that we have now made a very significant step forward,” Elliott began.
“You will recall that we have been in discussions with the Spanish for some weeks over two outstanding, complex issues and I’m pleased to tell you that we have now reached an agreement on those two points.”
The British Embassy has never explicitly explained the reasons why negotiations have gone on for over two years without much progress, with the only hint being that Spain asked for the provision of UK licence holders’ data to be part of the deal, something the UK did not want to agree to.
“So we will now take forward the remaining steps including legal checks, securing ministerial approval on both sides, which for Spain is by the Consejo de Ministros (the Spanish Cabinet), and the necessary treaty processes and formal exchanges,” Elliott added.
“What I can’t tell you today is exactly how many weeks those final steps will take.
“But I can tell you the process is already underway and once those legal and political approvals are done, confirmation will be published in the BOE, or state bulletin.”
Some Spanish laws have to receive approval from the Spanish Parliament and the Senate before they can come into force, extra legislative steps that can add months to the process.
The fact that Elliott has said that this post-Brexit agreement on the exchange of UK licences in Spain will go from the Spanish Cabinet straight to the BOE is positive, although the “weeks” the ambassador mentions could end up adding up to a couple of months in a country known for its slow bureaucracy.
However, all the British drivers residing in Spain – as well as Spaniards and other foreign nationals who have a UK licence – at least now have the peace of mind of knowing that they won’t have to sit their driving exam again in Spain.
“At that point (when the law comes into force) you will then have six months to exchange your UK licence for a Spanish one and during that time you will be able to drive using your existing valid UK licence.
“Now I know this has not been an easy time for those of you who have been unable to drive,” the ambassador acknowledged once more about the mobility issues affected drivers have faced for months, especially those in rural areas.
“But I hope that this latest news gives you some reassurance and helps you consider your next steps.
“We will keep you up to date on further developments and provide more information on the process for licence exchange itself,” Elliott concluded.
Spain and Italy remain the only EU countries that have not implemented laws which allow for the exchange of UK licences for Spanish or Italian ones by residents. British tourists in Spain are not affected by the UK driving licence debacle.