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BREXIT

Spain extends UK driving licence validity until end of February 2022

The British Embassy in Madrid announced on Tuesday that Spanish authorities have for the third time extended the period of validity of UK driving licences in Spain, with negotiations over a licence exchange “to conclude as soon as possible” but “not there yet”. 

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Unless Spain has a bilateral agreement with a third country for the recognition and exchange of licences, most non-EU driving licence holders have six months from their arrival in Spain to use their foreign licences.Photo: Santiago López-Pastor/Flickr

“We are pleased to let you know that the Spanish Government has today confirmed the extension of the grace period during which you can drive in Spain using a valid UK licence until the end of February 2022,” The UK Embassy in Madrid wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday.

This is the third extension Spain gives British licence holders since Brexit meant their UK-issued documents became unrecognised by the common EU framework, the first extension being announced in June 2021 and the second one in October.

The two-month grace period does not give UK licence holders who reside in Spain and registered their intent to exchange more time to do so at Spain’s often overburdened DGT traffic authority; the deadline remains December 31st 2021.

But it does give them and those who didn’t register their intent to exchange more time to drive legally in Spain and potentially sit their Spanish driving test as a safeguard, or hope for a deal between UK and Spanish authorities.

We recognise that the extension is relatively short, and therefore it is important that – if it is imperative for you to drive – you consider all your options, which may include looking into taking a driving test now,” the Embassy headed by UK Ambassador to Spain Hugh Elliott stressed.

The news comes just days after Italian authorities gave British residents in their country 12 more months to continue using their UK driving licences in Italy while they also engage in negotiations with the British government.

On the subject of a potential deal between Spain and the UK, the embassy wrote: “As you know, the UK Government is committed to reaching a long-term agreement with Spain so that residents can exchange their UK driving licences without taking a test. 

“Negotiations are continuing and we stand ready to conclude that agreement as soon as possible. 

“But unfortunately we are not there yet.”

In an earlier Facebook video, UK Ambassador Hugh Elliott admitted that “many of you have also rightly pointed out that Spaniards resident in the UK are able to exchange their Spanish licence for a UK one without taking a practical test”. 

After a long wait for answers, UK licence holders in Spain are now hoping that a reciprocal agreement can finally be reached to solve this Brexit-induced obstacle.

It is unclear yet if any future agreement would be beneficial just to British residents who are protected under the Withdrawal Agreement or other UK licence holders who have moved or will move to Spain to become residents after Brexit came into force on January 1st 2021.

Unless Spain has a bilateral agreement with a third country for the recognition and exchange of licences, most non-EU driving licence holders have six months from their arrival in Spain to use their foreign licences.

After that, they have to sit theory and practical tests and get a Spanish licence from scratch.

This doesn’t apply to British tourists with UK licences visiting Spain who are for example renting a car during their holidays. The issues affect UK licence holders who are residents in Spain.

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For members

BANKING

Banking giant Barclays to close all accounts of Brits living in Spain

UK nationals living in Spain have begun to receive letters from their bank telling them that their accounts will be closed, in an apparent post-Brexit change. Have you been affected?

Banking giant Barclays to close all accounts of Brits living in Spain

Customers of Barclays Bank who are living in Spain and other EU countries have been receiving letters telling them that their UK accounts will be closed by the end of the year. 

A number of readers of The Local’s network of news websites have contacted us to report receiving either letters or messages in their online banking telling them that their accounts would be closed because of their residency in Spain or in other countries in the EU.

A Barclays spokesperson told The Local: “As a ring fenced bank, our Barclays UK products are designed for customers within the UK.

“We will no longer be offering services to personal current account or savings customers (excluding ISAs) within the European Economic Area. We are contacting impacted customers to give them advance notice of this decision and outline the next steps they need to take.”  

Customers are being given six months to make alternative arrangements. The changes affect all personal current accounts or savings accounts, but do not affect ISAs, loans or mortgages.

During the Brexit transition period Barclays closed Barclaycard accounts of customers in Spain, but did not indicate any changes to standard bank accounts.

READ MORE: 

Around the same time several other British high street banks began closing accounts of British customers who live in the EU, although with the exception of Barclaycard customers in Spain who were largely spared.

Many UK nationals who live in Spain maintain at least one UK bank account – in addition to a Spanish account – sometimes just for savings but others use their accounts regularly to receive income such as pensions or income from rental property or – for remote workers – to receive income for work done in the UK.

Not having a UK bank account can make financial transactions in the UK more complicated or incur extra banking fees.

READ MORE: What are the best UK banks for Brits in Spain?

Since Brexit, the UK banking sector no longer has access to the ‘passporting’ system which allows banks to operate in multiple EU countries without having to apply for a separate banking licence for each country.

And it seems that many UK high street banks are deciding that the extra paperwork is not worth the hassle and are withdrawing completely from certain EU markets. 

When British banks began withdrawing services from customers in the EU back in 2020, a UK government spokesman told British newspaper The Times that “the provision of banking services is a commercial decision for firms based on a number of factors” so Brits in Spain probably shouldn’t hold their breath for any help from that direction.

READ ALSO: Premium Bond holders in Spain may have to cash in if no UK bank account

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