Thousands of British citizens in France have found themselves without a valid driving license, or at risk of losing theirs within months, due to bureaucratic overload and the failure of the governments of the two countries 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. 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.
Short-term visitors and tourists to France can continue to use UK licenses.
However, those who have applied to swap their licenses since January have had their requests 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.
Driving in France without a valid license can result in a fine of up to € 15,000 (£ 12,808), while taking the French driving test instead of exchanging a license can cost up to € 1,800 each, which involves an exam intimidating French-language theory. .
Government sources suggest that a reciprocal agreement between the UK and France is “about to be sealed”, but not yet.
The problem was compounded by red tape at the Nantes and Paris centers that 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.
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 resolved, we will have to take French tests.
The Living in France section of the British Foreign Office website informs 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. “.
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 requested an exchange before December 31 of last year, they must pass the Italian driving license.
Some British pilots are already running out of patience. Glen Rodger, a 57-year-old independent entrepreneur, moved to west-central France two years ago and applied to exchange his three-year restricted license – he is diabetic – in November.
“I waited up to six weeks for it to expire, as I was told,” Rodger said. “It was supposed to take three weeks. And now it’s expired on January 20, and there are no new apps. I have been told that I cannot drive and I am obviously not insured.
Rodger estimates the delay cost him at least $ 3,000 in lost work. “And a real downside,” he says. “We are 6 km or 7 km from the nearest shops; one hour from the hospital. My wife has to drive and she is sick. I feel like we have been sacrificed.
Vanessa Parsons, a former primary school principal now living in the Limousin region, has been treated for breast cancer for a year. Despite multiple attempts, French authorities did not exchange her husband Terry’s UK driving license until he turned 70 last July – and, at the moment, cannot.
“We did everything right,” Parsons said. “Submit the right documents at the right time. We are in rural France; it is 3 km from the store and 50 km from the hospital. It is a journey of 120 € by taxi. I have side effects after my treatment that means I can’t always drive. We really need his license. It’s just a huge worry.
Joshua Opie’s situation is even more Kafkaesque. Now 28, he moved to France with his British parents in 2003 and passed his driving test in France in 2014, exchanging his license for a British license when he then spent a year in Britain .
Back in France, he applied for a job at the large local bus station in Angoulême, was accepted and successfully completed his category D training for public transport drivers. He has been waiting for his French driving license since last August.
“I have now lost the job I was promised,” Opie said. “I had to move into social housing with my partner and our son, who is almost two years old. I may have to reimburse training that cost the company € 15,000. It destroyed my life for a year. It makes me so angry.