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BREXIT

Europe & You: Boris our ‘best chance to stop Brexit’, EU Green Cards and cash for residency appointments

Our weekly Europe & You newsletter rounds up the most relevant stories from around our countries related to Brexit, the EU and other areas of interest. Here's the latest edition featuring Boris Johnson, an EU Green Card scheme, cash for residency appointments and many other stories.

Europe & You: Boris our 'best chance to stop Brexit', EU Green Cards and cash for residency appointments
Photo: AFP

Hi to all our readers,

Do you have any preferences on who becomes the next leader of the Conservative Party?

Many of the contenders are openly campaigning for a no-deal Brexit, perhaps unsurprising given that a poll of Tory members – who get to vote on who becomes the next PM – revealed a majority back leaving the EU with no deal.

What about Boris Johnson for PM? While the idea that BoJo could be the next leader of the country might make you wince – he said we are leaving the EU on October 31st “with or without a deal” – this opinion article might make you change your mind.

AFP

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday that he fully accepted his “bad guy” role in insisting on a shorter extension to Britain's tortuous exit from the EU, while insisting that October 31st is the “final, final deadline.” Here's what he had to say.

How would the idea of a European Green Card sound to you? It would allow you to keep the existing rights you have as an EU citizen, not least freedom of movement, which we look set to lose if Brexit goes through.

The campaign to bring in an EU Green Card won a timely boost this week as the campaign group behind it, the New Europeans picked up a prestigious European award.

Here's some more information about the EU green card scheme.

AFP

While Brexit limbo goes on, Brits around Europe are still taking steps to try to secure residency permits which they hope will make all the post-Brexit paperwork process a lot easier.

But in France their efforts are being hampered by authorities, understandably, not processing applications until they know what's happening in the UK and also by the long waiting times to get an appointment at the prefecture.

So this story about a black market in appointments for residency permits in certain parts of France will no doubt interest readers.

Here are a selection of other stories from around Europe that will interest you.

SpainThe villages in Alicante where there are zero British residents

France: The 39 maps you need to understand south-west France

Germany: Why Germany could soon have its first 'Green' Chancellor

There was a crucial election in Denmark this week which threw up a few surprises that could be a sign of the direction Europe is heading in, not least on the subject of immigration which resulted in a disastrous showing for the far-right populists. The article below contains everything you need to know.

Denmark: What we learned: Seven key takeaways from the Danish election

Sweden: What you love most about life in Sweden

Italy: Quiz – How well do you know your Italian geography?

A story from Switzerland will interest all those British citizens living around Europe who are unable to vote in their adopted country. Perhaps this idea to give foreigners a political voice could take off around Europe?

And just to round things off Theresa May finally stepped down as Conservative party leader on Friday to allow the race to replace her to officially begin. Some may have sympathy for her, others not so much, but this photo kind of sums her term as Tory party leader.

AFP

Remember, if you want to follow The Local more closely you can download our phone Apps from the Apple or Play store for both Android and Apple phones.

Thanks for reading and for your support.

Ben McPartland
[email protected]

Managing Editor, The Local Europe

Member comments

  1. It is interesting to compare Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron
    Johnson was born to a rich family and went to Eaton, an elite expensive public=private school. From there he went to Oxford following the standard route for senior ministers and prime ministers in the UK
    In contrast Macron was born to a wealthy family and went to an expensive private school. From there he went to the elite École Nationale d’Administration the standard route for senior ministers and presidents of France.
    There are great differences in their personalities. Johnson is often regarded as having a good sense of humour. At the moment he is guarded by minders to protect him from his one-liner gaffs.
    Macron is not noted for his sense of humour. He is famous for his ability for talking for hours on any subject without notes. How many are still awake at the end of this monologue is not recorded.
    Both of them have shot themselves in the foot which may lead to their ultimate political deaths. Johnson was the major force in the leave Brexit vote. Macron after supporting his rich friends alienated forgotten France resulting in the yellow vests protest.
    Politics is a dirty business.

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BREXIT

Driving licences: How does situation for Brits in Italy compare to rest of Europe?

As UK driving licence holders in Italy still wait for answers regarding another extension or a long-awaited deal for the mutual exchange of British and Italian licences post-Brexit, we look at how the situation compares to that of their counterparts across Europe.

Driving licences: How does situation for Brits in Italy compare to rest of Europe?

When Britain left the EU at the end of 2020, the British and Italian authorities hadn’t reached a reciprocal agreement on driving licences.

However, UK licence holders living in Italy were granted a 12-month grace period in which they could continue to drive on their British licences in Italy.

READ ALSO: Q&A: Your questions answered about driving in Italy on a British licence

This was then further extended for another 12 months until the end of 2022.

The UK government announced on December 24th, 2021 that British residents of Italy who didn’t convert their UK licence to an Italian one could continue to use it until December 31st, 2022.

That’s the latest official directive from the authorities, with no decision made on what will happen from January 1st, 2023.

The question on a UK-Italy driving licence agreement rolls on. (Photo by FABIO MUZZI / AFP)

The latest extension – while providing more time – hasn’t ruled out the need to take the Italian theory and practical driving tests and the clock is ticking again with just over six months left of this grace period.

READ ALSO: How do you take your driving test in Italy?

In fact, the authorities recommend sitting the Italian driving exams whatever the outcome, just in case. The process is known to take months, so UK licence holders find themselves once again taking a gamble on waiting for an accord to be reached or taking the plunge by starting preparations for the tests.

As things stand, the latest update to the driving guidance on the British government’s ‘Living in Italy’ webpage in January states:

“If you were resident in Italy before 1 January 2022 you can use your valid UK licence until 31 December 2022,” however, “you must exchange your licence for an Italian one by 31 December 2022. You will need to take a driving test (in Italian).”

The guidance then states: “The British and Italian governments continue to negotiate long-term arrangements for exchanging driving licences without needing to take a test.”

The Local contacted the British Embassy in Rome to ask for an update on the situation, to which they responded:

“Rest assured the Embassy continues to prioritise the issue of UK driving licence validity in Italy and we continue to engage with the Italian government on this issue.”

Presently, the UK’s new ambassador to Italy, Edward Llewellyn, is touring all 20 regions of Italy and no updates on the driving licence have been given in the meantime.

Could there be a deal which sees all UK licence holders in Italy – those who registered their intent to exchange, those who didn’t, those who did register intent but haven’t been able to finalise the process, and future UK licence holders who move to Italy – able to continue using their UK licences in Italy or easily exchange them for Italian ones without having to sit a driving test?

READ ALSO: ‘Anyone can do it’: Why passing your Italian driving test isn’t as difficult as it sounds

It’s still hard to say, as the authorities continue to advise UK licence holders to sit their Italian driving test, while stating that the two governments are still working on an agreement.

The embassy’s most recent announcement was a Facebook post in April acknowledging that “many of you are concerned” about the issue.

“We continue to work at pace to reach a long-term agreement with Italy, so that residents can exchange their UK driving licences without taking a test, as Italian licence holders can in the UK,” the embassy stated.

British residents of Italy can use their driving licenses until the end of this year, the government has confirmed.

British residents of Italy can presently use their driving licences until the end of this year. Photo by PACO SERINELLI / AFP

The embassy reiterated the need for UK licence holders to consider the possibility of obtaining an Italian driving licence via a test, stating: “It is important that you currently consider all your options, which may include looking into taking a driving test now.”

READ ALSO: Getting your Italian driving licence: the language you need to pass your test

So is it true that most European nations have reached successful agreements with the UK over reciprocal driving licence recognition and exchange and the Italian deal is lagging behind?

The evidence suggests so.

UK licence exchange agreements across Europe

As things stand, Italy and Spain are the only European countries where licence exchange negotiations are ongoing.

British drivers living in Spain are becoming increasingly disgruntled at the lack of solutions, as authorities have still made no decision on exchanging driving licences or reaching a deal.

UK licence holders in Spain are currently in limbo, unable to drive until they either get a Spanish driving licence or a deal is finally reached between Spanish and UK authorities for the mutual exchange of licences post-Brexit.

Since May 1st 2022, drivers who’ve been residents in Spain for more than six months and who weren’t able to exchange their UK licences for Spanish ones cannot drive in Spain.

French and British authorities reached a licence exchange agreement in June 2021, considered a generous one for UK licence holders residing in France as those with licences issued before January 1st 2021 can continue using their UK licences in France until either the licence or the photocard nears expiry.

Sweden and the UK reached a deal even earlier in March 2021. British people resident in Sweden can exchange their UK driving licences for an equivalent Swedish one, without needing to take a test, just as they could when the country was a member of the European Union. 

In Portugal, resident UK licence holders can continue to use their valid UK licences until December 31st 2022 but they must exchange their licences for Portuguese ones before that date.

Other EU nations which have decided to allow UK licence holders residing in their countries to swap their driving licences without having to take a driving test include Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Switzerland.   

There are slight variations in the conditions between countries, and some say you “can exchange”, others that you “must exchange” and most encourage UK licence holders to swap “as soon as possible”. In Greece, UK licences continue to be valid without any restrictions or deadlines for exchange.

That leaves Italy and Spain as the two EU/EEA countries where a deal on a straightforward exchange or long-term recognition of UK licences among residents is still hanging in the balance.  

The only question that’s left is why. 

Why are the driving rights of all Britons who resided in Italy before December 31st 2020 not part of the other protected rights they enjoy under the Withdrawal agreement? 

And why is it taking so long to reach an exchange deal?

So far, Italian and British officials have not provided answers to these questions.

The Local will continue to ask for updates regarding the use of British driving licences in Italy.

Are you a British resident in Italy affected by this issue? We’d like to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment below this article or email the Italian news team here.

Find more information on the UK government website’s Living in Italy section.

See The Local’s latest Brexit-related news updates for UK nationals in Italy here.

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