The Brexit bureaucracy could see thousands of British expats in France lose their driving licenses and even their lives.
Thousands of British citizens in France found themselves without a valid driving license, or at risk of losing theirs within months, due to bureaucratic overload and the failure of the British and French governments to sign a post-reciprocity agreement. Brexit.
“I would say there are 3,000 who are seriously worried – for whom this has really turned into a nightmare,” said Kim Cranstoun, who moved permanently to France three years ago and whose Facebook group for affected Brits. now has over 6,000 members.
“Commuters are at risk of losing their jobs, trades people cannot work, the elderly have missed their medical appointments. Many Britons in France live in fairly remote rural areas with little or no public transport. Some are considering returning to the UK. It’s pretty desperate.
UK photocard licenses must be renewed every 10 years, while drivers who turn 70 must also renew their driving license. People with “notifiable” conditions, such as diabetes or epilepsy, need to renew their license more often, every one to five years.
The French government announced late last year that due to Brexit, British residents of France would have to exchange their UK licenses for French licenses and would have until December 31, 2021 to apply to do so.
Under the current rules, short-term visitors and tourists to France can continue to use their UK licenses. British drivers moving to France will only be able to drive for one year with their UK license before being required to exchange it for a French license. It is important to keep this in mind because if the exchange is not carried out within the year, a driving test in French is required.
However, those who have applied to swap their licenses since January have had their applications systematically rejected by a new French online system, called ANTS, on the grounds that no reciprocal license agreement is yet in place between the UK and the United Kingdom. France.
How much are the fines?
Driving in France without a valid license can result in a fine of up to € 15,000, while taking the French driving test instead of changing licenses involves compulsory lessons and an intimidating French language theory test, at a cost of around 1800 €.
Government sources suggest that a reciprocity agreement between the UK and France is “about to be sealed”, but have not been able to give a specific date as to when the deal will be concluded. .
The problem was further compounded by administrative overloads in the Nantes and Paris centers which handled previous paper exchanges but were overwhelmed by more than 100,000 requests in 2018 as a possible no-deal Brexit loomed.
This prompted France to drastically limit applications by decreeing, in April 2019, that UK driving licenses were valid as long as Britain was a member of the EU, and asking holders not to attempt to apply. exchange their licenses unless they expire or are lost.
Punished without fault on their part
Many Britons have duly waited after the Brexit transition period on December 31, 2020 to begin the process – and now find themselves with licenses that are soon expiring or already have, and cannot even begin to trade them.
“People have followed the instructions of both governments and are now being punished through no fault of their own,” Cranstoun said. “It has a huge impact on workers and retirees. Unless this is fixed, we will have to take French tests.
The Living in France section of the British Foreign Office website advises that British licenses “will continue to be recognized in France until December 31, 2021”, but adds: “The rules for exchanging your license have not been confirmed. “.
Is it the same situation in Spain?
British residents in Spain have until June 30 to start exchanging their licenses, although discussions are underway to extend the deadline. In Italy, if holders have not applied for an exchange by December 31 of last year, they must pass the Italian driving test before being allowed to resume the road.
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