Brits in France launch petition to end post-Brexit driving licence impasse

Brits in France launch petition to end post-Brexit driving licence impasse
Photo: Kenzo Tribaullard/AFP
Fed-up Brits in France have launched a petition calling on the British government to end the post-Brexit fiasco that has led to thousands of people being unable to exchange their driving licences, and others losing their licences altogether.

The petition on the UK government’s website calls on the British authorities to conclude the agreement and end the hardship for Brits living in France.

“The petition was launched to focus the UK Government on concluding the reciprocal agreement on licences, due to their lack of understanding that we were unable to exchange last year due to the criteria set out by France,” said organiser Trevor Hall.

“Many licences are expiring and not just because of age, this is causing problems for those who need their licence for work or daily life.”

The story of swapping UK licences for French ones has been a long and painful saga for British people living in France, with almost three years of contradictory information and changes in policy.

READ ALSO No end in sight for driving licence woes for Brits in France

This was supposed to have been resolved with the creation of an online portal that allowed people living in France to swap their UK licence for a French one.

This does not apply to British tourists or second-home owners, who can continue to use their UK licence.

However the online portal is currently not accepting applications from Brits, as a reciprocal agreement has not been reached between the two governments since the end of the transition period on January 1st 2021.

UK licences will continue to be accepted until the end of 2021, but a supposed 12-month window to exchange is now a nine-month window with no end in sight.

Worse still is the situation for people whose licence has expired or is about to – as is the case for all UK licence-holders once they reach 70.

READ ALSO Stranded – the Brits in France left with no driving licence due to the lack of a post-Brexit agreement

They are unable to either renew their UK licence or exchange it for a French one because of the impasse, and people have been left stranded and unable to drive as their licence expired.

The Local has spoken to several drivers left stranded, including recently-widowed Josephine Washington, 71, of Corbières, who has been left with no licence after hers expired while she was waiting for the exchange.

She said: “I live about a mile outside the nearest village so I need to drive for everything, even taking the rubbish out. My husband was very ill and died in October 2019 so there were a lot of trips to and from hospital that I had to rely on others to drive me.
 
“I’m also partially disabled so driving really is vital for me.”
 
In an official response to the petition, the UK government said:

“The Government is committed to establishing arrangements with France, that facilitate private motoring with the minimum of bureaucracy, as soon as possible.

“The Government is committed to establishing reciprocal arrangements with France that facilitate private motoring with the minimum of bureaucracy. At the end of 2020, the Department had successfully agreed arrangements with France for the mutual recognition of photocard licences. As such, UK photocard licence holders will not need to carry an additional International Driving Permit (IDP) when driving in France – nor any EU Member State.

“For UK residents in France, we have secured interim arrangements which will allow UK licence holders’ to continue to use their UK licence until 1 January 2022, provided that it remains valid in the UK. There is therefore no requirement for these valid UK licences to be exchanged during this period, until a reciprocal agreement is reached between the United Kingdom and France. We are working with the French government to finalise this agreement.

“These interim arrangements however do not extend to those UK residents whose licence has expired, and we are aware that this is causing difficulty for a number of UK residents in France. We are working closely with the French Government to explore solutions for those with expired licences and the Government commits to providing an update as soon as possible. In the meantime, the Department for Transport are working with the British Embassy in Paris to clarify the approach to exchanging UK licences in France and updates will be made to the Living in France guide and the the driving licence section on Gov.uk.”

 
You can sign the petition HERE.

The Local is also asking its British readers to fill in a short survey HERE, telling us of your experiences – successful or otherwise – in swapping your licence.


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