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BREXIT

Driving licences: Are the UK and Italy any closer to reaching an agreement?

With ongoing uncertainty over whether UK driving licences will continue to be recognised in Italy from next year, and December fast approaching, British residents are asking where they stand.

Driving licences: Are the UK and Italy any closer to reaching an agreement?
Driving in Italy on a UK licence is fine if you're a tourist - but for residents, the situation is becoming complicated. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

As the year-end approaches, a number of The Local’s British readers have been in touch to ask whether any progress has been made on a reciprocal driving license agreement between the UK and Italy.

If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance that you’re familiar with the background of this Brexit consequence.

READ ALSO: Frustration grows as UK driving licence holders in Italy wait in limbo

When Britain left the EU there was no reciprocal agreement in place, but UK licence holders living in Italy were granted a grace period in which they could continue to drive on their British licences. This period was later extended to the current deadline of December 31st, 2022.

The situation beyond that date however remains unclear, and concern is growing among the sizeable number of British nationals living in Italy who say no longer being allowed to drive would be a serious problem.

There was the option of exchanging licences before the end of 2021, but many didn’t make the deadline. As has been proven before, this was often not due to slackness but rather all manner of circumstances, from having moved to Italy after or shortly before the cut-off date to bureaucratic delays.

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

So is an agreement any closer? Or do those driving in Italy on a UK licence really need to go to the considerable trouble and expense of sitting an Italian driving test (in Italian)?

With less than three months now left to go, there’s still no indication as to whether a decision will be made either way.

The Local contacted the British embassy for an update on the situation, and on Wednesday received the following statement from an embassy spokesperson:

“We completely understand the concerns of British citizens living in Italy on this issue. Being able to drive is vital to so many British citizens living here, from running businesses to being able to get to medical appointments.

“Negotiating an agreement with Italy on the exchange of driving licences before the end of the year remains right at the top of the Embassy’s priorities.

“Since our update in August we have continued and intensified further our work with our Italian colleagues and have made progress towards our shared objective. We look forward to providing a further update as soon as we can.”

When pressed on the reasons for the hold up, and asked whether British driving license holders in Italy can expect another eleventh-hour extension to the grace period, the embassy said it could not comment further.

In the meantime, the British government continues to advise licence holders to sit their Italian driving test – while also stressing that they’re working hard on reaching a deal, which would make taking the test unnecessary.

READ ALSO:  Do you have to take Italy’s driving test in Italian?

The August update referenced in the embassy’s latest statement refers to a video posted to its Facebook page by British Ambassador to Italy Ed Llewellyn on August 4th.

In the video, the ambassador says that he has recently been in contact with Italy’s transport minister over the issue, and that discussions would continue through August.

As of early October, however, British residents of Italy are still no closer to knowing what the outcome of those talks has been.

Llewellyn adds in his August video update: “our advice remains that you don’t need, if you speak Italian, to wait for that agreement – you can go down the route of taking the Italian test.”

This advice echoes that given in an official newsletter published in mid-July, in which Llewellyn acknowledged the concerns of British residents and confirmed that negotiations are still going on, while urging them to take the Italian test.

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

“We hope it will be possible to reach an agreement – that is our objective and we are working hard to try to deliver it. 

Nevertheless, he said, “our advice is not to wait to exchange your licence.”

“If you need to drive in Italy, you can take action now by applying for an Italian licence. This will, however, involve taking a practical and theory test.” 

He acknowledged that “the process is not a straightforward one and that there are delays in some areas to book an appointment for a test”.

The Local will continue to publish any news on the recognition of British driving licences in Italy. See the latest updates in our Brexit-related news section here.

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

Member comments

  1. The one question we would all like to know is. If we get our licence now which will be a neopatentati, will we be able to exchange for a normal one if there is a deal. Without answering this question then mist people will wait until the 31st December. Answers are needed one way or the other!

  2. We need to know that if we pass our test now and get a neopatentati licence that we can then swap for a normal licence if there is a deal. It’s not as easy as ed thinks, “if you need to drive then do a test” is he not aware of this situation??

  3. And, it costs a fortune to sit the test. I am not a cheap person, but the quotes I received from the three autoscuole in my area were each over €1000.00!!! Highway robbery! Mamma mia!

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BRITS IN ITALY

‘It’s a disaster’: How Brits in Italy are being hit by drop in value of pound

We asked our British readers to explain how the recent drop in the value of the pound will affect their lives in Italy. Here’s what they had to say.

‘It's a disaster’: How Brits in Italy are being hit by drop in value of pound

The British pound experienced a record 37-year low against the dollar on September 24th, following on from a months-long fall in its value.

Though the Bank of England has managed to prevent a “material risk” to the country’s stability by buying government bonds, UK markets remain highly volatile and the slide in the value of the sterling seems to have already caused the price of goods and services in the UK to climb.

That’s in the UK, but how about Britons living in Italy? 

Last week, we asked our readers to tell us how they’ve already been affected and what they expect the ongoing impact of a weak pound will be on their lives unless the currency bounces back.  

READ ALSO: Climate zones: When can you turn your heating on Italy this winter?

We received answers to our survey from all corners of the boot, from Bolzano, Trentino Alto-Adige to Oria, Puglia. 

The overwhelming response was that the pound’s drop in value in Italy will negatively impact the lives of UK nationals in Italy.

Expectedly, most respondents pointed to unfavourable exchange rates as being the most negative consequence of the sterling’s slump, with many expressing concern about having to transfer savings from a UK account to an Italian one. 

“For the moment, it is a disaster; I can’t even think of making a transfer of pounds into euros,” said one reader living in the capital, Rome. 

Another Briton, Carol Lewis, living in Collazzone, Umbria, had similar worries. She said: “All my pensions are paid in sterling. It is making what was already a bit tight financially post-brexit even tighter.”

“Combined with increased costs generally, we are having to cut back a lot on extras and be more careful about how we spend our money.”

Pound coins and banknotes.

Following on from the pound’s drop in value, Britons in Italy are expressing concern over unfavourable exchange rates when transferring money from UK accounts. Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP

Alison Reith, from San Salvatore Monferrato, Piedmont, also acknowledged that the pound’s weakness was putting Brits at a serious disadvantage when transferring money from overseas. 

However, she also pointed the finger at soaring living costs in Italy, admitting that it’ll be difficult to “pay for petrol, food and heating” this winter and “cuts on all costs” will sadly have to be made.  

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How much are energy prices rising in Italy this autumn? 

While sharing that expense cuts were in the cards for the cold season, many readers told us how they were trying to overcome their recent money-transferring adversities.

Julius Vloothuis, 75, living in Naples, described money transfer platform Wise, formerly known as Transferwise, as somewhat of a “saving grace” – the website allows clients to move money practically free of charge and sends out alerts when the market has favourable exchange rates.

On a similar note, Dennis, living in Rome, advised fellow countrymen to “act as an investor” and watch the exchange rates on a regular basis.

While most readers were reasonably concerned about the pound’s downswing, some responded to our survey by saying that the event would have little impact on their lives. 

Leslie Whitehouse, a retired teacher living in Bolzano, said that “unless massive, a fall in the rate of pound sterling against the euro will not affect my life”. 

Similarly, Iain Gosling, 73, told us that, having “bought a block of euros last year via [currency exchange service] TORFX”, rate fluctuations haven’t really affected his family thus far. 

Finally, some The Local Italy readers confided that they were actually quite happy with the pound dropping in value.

George Newman, 32, from Viareggio, Tuscany said: “Great, buying a house in the UK now and earning in euros. Tax cut to stamp duty too!! Winning!”

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