‘A deal in weeks, not months’: UK embassy tells licence holders who can’t drive in Spain

The UK Ambassador to Spain has confirmed that there is still no deal in early June which will allow the thousands of barred UK licence holders in Spain to drive again, but he has offered some extra details on negotiations.

'A deal in weeks, not months': UK embassy tells licence holders who can't drive in Spain
The British Ambassador has stated on several occasions that he is “confident” a deal can be reached. (Photo by CURTO DE LA TORRE / AFP)

On Thursday June 2nd, HMA Hugh Elliott took to his almost weekly Facebook video update on the UK driving licences debacle just as the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations were underway in the United Kingdom, acknowledging that for many Brits in Spain “celebrations won’t be the same because of your inability to drive”. 

Since May 1st 2022, thousands of UK licence holders in Spain (a “minority” of the 407,000 UK nationals who are officially residents in 2022) cannot drive on their UK licences.

This comes after at least 17 months of negotiations, 4 extensions to the validity of UK licences granted by Spanish authorities and countless updates by the British Embassy in Madrid. 

READ ALSO: What now UK licence holders in Spain?

The failure to reach an agreement for the mutual exchange of driving licences between the UK and Spain, a problem long resolved across almost all EU nations, means the UK licences of drivers who’ve been residents in Spain for six months haven’t been valid for over a month now. 

No more extensions, just a state of limbo where those who can’t drive are not sure whether to wait for a deal or prepare for their Spanish driving test if they must drive.

This is as you may have guessed a direct consequence of the UK’s departure from the EU, but the extremely long holdup is one that baffles the mind for most Brits in Spain. 

There is also little sympathy in the British community for those who didn’t exchange and are now stuck, as it has been known for several years that the intent to exchange licences had to be registered before 2021. 

However, there is evidence that many have fallen between the cracks through no fault of their own, and for those who rely on their cars to live a normal life in Spain (rural or another setting), the situation is getting desperate and has boiled over into anger.

The UK Embassy even shared a separate post in which it reminded followers of the Brits in Spain group that “personal and offensive comments are not acceptable” while acknowledging that “that many of you are anxious and angry about the ongoing driving licence negotiations”.

What’s new on UK licences in Spain in early June 2022?

There may be no deal on UK licences to report yet and HMA Elliott did stress that “unfortunately, I simply can’t go into lots of details or give a running commentary of what is an ongoing negotiation”, but the UK ambassador did offer some extra insight into three of the main questions the embassy has received: 

Why not give Spain what it wants?

“Firstly, on data provision. So lots of you have contacted us to say that you’re very happy for your data to be shared if that means getting you back on the road,” Elliott said.

“So I need to clarify, the data that Spain is seeking relates largely to those visiting Spain and driving on their UK licences, rather than the data of residents. Now I recognise this is all the more frustrating if you’re a resident, but the better news is that we will be able to resolve this issue.”

The British Embassy had previously explained the holdup was down to Spain asking for UK driver data provision, something other EU Member States hadn’t requested. This time Elliott went into more detail about what exactly Spain is requesting.

Judging by the comments on the video, many of those affected continue to struggle to understand why withholding such data is deemed more important than resolving an issue affecting actual residents in Spain.   

Why is there not another extension to UK licence validity?

“You also asked why the interim measure that allowed you to drive on your UK licence can’t be reinstated,” Elliott continued. 

“Now this is of course something that we asked Spain for, but the fact is that they haven’t agreed to it. 

“The more positive news is that Spain has agreed to a clause that will allow everyone back on the road from the moment the agreement is signed, for a period of up to six months to allow people time to exchange their licences during that period”.   

Needless to say, this final point has several commentators reading into what the details of a possible exchange would be and if there won’t be a limitless period of exchange for new arrivals. 

Back on May 12th, Elliott did say “the agreement we’re working towards now will enable UK licence holders, whenever they arrived in Spain or arrive in the future, to exchange their UK licence for a Spanish one without needing to take a practical or a theory test”.

READ ALSO: How much does it cost to get your driving licence in Spain?

Will there be an agreement and when?

“So first of all, I can’t make any promises on exact timings because we’re still in the negotiations and there are no cast iron guarantees,” Elliott stressed. 

“But yet I am confident that we will reach an agreement. We are genuinely in the final stages, I expect it to take a matter of weeks, not months. 

“It’s our top priority here at the embassy and we’re working together with our colleagues in London, of course in order to fix this as quickly as we can”.

The British Ambassador has stated on several occasions that he is “confident” a deal can be reached. Additionally, the fact that this time he did not state that those for whom it’s “imperative to drive” in Spain should take steps to apply for the Spanish driving test, has some Brits in Spain believing the outcome will be positive. 

It’s not the first time either that HMA Elliott says a deal will be reached “soon” or “in weeks” or that talks will be “rapidly accelerating”.

As things stand, it’s impossible for The Local Spain – which has been reporting on the issues surrounding the exchange of UK licences in Spain since the very beginning – to truly forecast what will happen, when and what the exchange deal will consist of.

Is that ¿Qué será, será? playing the background?

If you want to sign the official petition calling for the mutual recognition of UK and Spanish driving licences, click here. At 10,000 signatures, the UK government will respond to this petition.

READ ALSO – ‘An avoidable nightmare’: How UK licence holders in Spain are affected by driving debacle

Member comments

  1. Sorry but they voted to leave the EU. They should NOT get special privileges. Americans coming here even already drive on the same side of the road but because the US is a third nation we have to go to school. Brits who want to live and drive here should now have to go to school too. The UK is now a third nation.

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‘Operación Salida’: What you should know about driving during Spain’s Easter getaway

Friday March 31st marks the start of Spain's big Easter exodus when people flee the cities and drive to the countryside or the coast for their holidays. Here's what you need to know if you want to avoid traffic jams and other problems on the road.

'Operación Salida': What you should know about driving during Spain's Easter getaway

Friday is when the Easter holidays in Spain officially begin, with millions taking the opportunity to leave home for the week for a short break.  

Spaniards have dubbed the big exodus before the Easter and summer holidays Operación Salida.

The General Directorate of Traffic (DGT) has predicted that this year there will be around 16 million trips on Spanish roads from Friday March 31st until next Monday April 10th, which is a public holiday in the Balearic Islands, Catalonia, the Basque Country, Valencia, La Rioja and Navarra.  

The DGT has warned that this holiday period is one of the most complicated of the year, as the volume of trips increases in a short space of time, with similar origins and destinations on the same days and times.

The grand getaway typically takes place in two phases. The first begins this Friday, March 31st at 3pm and ends at midnight on Sunday, April 2nd a period in which 4.3 million road journeys are expected.

The second phase is more important than the previous one due to the sheer volume of trips along the entire road network. This will begin on Wednesday, April 5th, and will end on Monday, April 10th.

READ ALSO – Driving in Spain: 16 things that could land you in trouble with the law this summer

There’s nothing like being stuck in traffic on a hot highway for hours and hours to put a dampener on that holiday feeling, but here are some important tips on how to stay safe and sane on the roads during this time.

Here’s what you need to know to avoid the busiest travel times, find the best routes, and avoid difficulties as you head off on your Semana Santa break.

Find out the best times to travel

One of your best options is to avoid the busiest times and plan your route accordingly. According to the DGT the hours that will be the busiest on Friday will be between 3pm and 10pm. During these times there may be traffic problems and delays at the exits of large cities, as well as at the accesses to coastal tourist areas.

On Saturday morning, the intense traffic leaving the large urban centres will continue mostly between 9am and 2pm, while those who return on Sunday, April 2nd, may encounter delays in the evening between 6pm and 10pm coming into large cities.  

READ ALSO: What over-65s need to know about Spain’s driving licence changes

Avoid risky behaviour

The DGT insists on the importance of not adopting risky behaviour behind the wheel such as having distractions, speeding or being under the influence of alcohol, the latter causing one in three fatal accidents in Spain. 

In fact, according to the 2021 report of the National Institute of Toxicology, almost half of the drivers killed in traffic accidents who underwent an autopsy had the presence of alcohol or other drugs in their blood. A percentage that rises to 75 percent in the specific case of alcohol.

The DGT also warns about the danger of walking on the road if your vehicle has broken down and the importance of adopting all the necessary precautions, especially on highways or dual carriageways where vehicles travel at high speed.

During the Easter getaway in 2022, the DGT reported a total of 25 fatal accidents, in which 27 people lost their lives. 

READ ALSO: How many drinks does it take to fail a breathalyser test in Spain?

Stay up-to-date and plan

To guarantee safety and fluidity on the roads, the DGT has several measures in places such as fixed and mobile speed control radars, helicopters and drones, as well as cameras and undercover vans to control the use of mobile phones and seat belt use.

Follow the Twitter accounts @informacionDGT and @DGTes or the news bulletins on radio and television, as well as on the 011 telephone number to find out about the traffic situation and any incidents that may have occurred. There are also several apps you can use to help you plan your journey and monitor the roads.

Google Maps

It’s most likely already on your smartphone and can provide real-time info on traffic jams and offers faster alternative routes.


This is one of the best apps for Operación Salida, providing real-time traffic and alternative routes, it also allows users to share information on accidents, police checkpoints and other roadside dangers or annoyances. It also offers comparative prices at fuel stations along your route.


The official app from Spain’s traffic authority provides info on speed cameras and up-to-the-minute trouble spots along your route.


This app doesn’t just provide minute-by-minute updates on traffic congestion, it also allows you to plan your journey to beat the traffic, calculating the best time to leave. You can also search for info on service stations along the route and parking at your destination.

Via Michelin

The Michelin app gives real-time traffic updates, and will advise you of a route to avoid tolls. It can also calculate how much fuel you need and the cheapest place to buy it on the way.

READ ALSO – EXPLAINED: What are the rules for parking in Spain?

Check your car before your journey

Spain’s car owners club, RACE, warns that the majority of car problems resulting in roadside assistance come from battery and tire problems.

Make sure that you check your tire tread (it should be a minimum of 1.6mm across the central ¾ line of the tire) ahead of the journey and that you have a functional spare tire in the vehicle.

Also check tire pressure at the start of your journey, and the fluid levels of oil, windscreen cleaning liquid and radiator coolant.