Confusion and concern after France stops exchange of driving licences until after Brexit

Evie Burrows-Taylor
Evie Burrows-Taylor - [email protected]
Confusion and concern after France stops exchange of driving licences until after Brexit
Photo: AFP

Britons living in France have been subjected to even more Brexit worries after the French authorities said they would not be processing applications to exchange British driving licences for French ones until they know exactly what's happening with Britain's departure from the EU.


The announcement, published on the website of the Loire-Atlantique prefecture in Nantes, where most applications are processed, will no doubt come as a surprise to many Brits living in France.
They had previously been told by the UK government to exchange their driving licences "as soon as possible to make sure you get one before 29th March 2019"  - the day when the Britain is scheduled to leave the EU.
The Centre d’Expertises et des Ressources des Titres – Echange des Permis Etrangers (CERT - EPA) based at the prefecture in the French city of Nantes, located in the Loire-Atlantique department, is responsible for processing driving licence exchanges for the whole of France except for the Paris region. 
The notice posted on the prefecture's website at the end of February said: "Do you have a British driver's licence that you wish to exchange for a French licence?
"It will take a little patience while waiting for the decision on the precise terms of Brexit to request your licence exchange," says the site. "Your request will not be processed and if you have submitted your file, it will be sent back to you with an accompanying letter."
Nantes will now only be dealing with the following requests: lost or stolen licences, expired licences, exchanges following an offense committed in France resulting in a loss of points, a restriction or suspension or cancellation of your licence or someone requesting a new category of licence. 
If your request does not fall into one of these groups, then it will not be processed and, indeed, your file will be sent back to you with an accompanying letter. 
That spells yet more uncertainty for Britons in France who are already living in limbo over the question of whether they will be able to meet the conditions for residency.
"The problem we have is the uncertainty of Brexit from all fronts. People are unable to get their licence or even know if its been processed, as all forms of communication available to us are not staffed as well as they need to be," admin for the 'Applying for a French driving licence' Facebook group Kim Cranstoun told The Local.
"If there was a mechanism where we could easily ascertain where we are on the list/queue it would really help. The stress not only for those that need their car daily but those that depend on their licence for work is huge," she said, adding that the inequality of the process "is one of the biggest problems we have."
"Some have been waiting for 18 months with nothing and others have received their licences within 4 months. Frustration levels are high."
France's Interior Ministry is yet to respond to our request for clarification as is the British Embassy in Paris, where officials are believed to be aware of the issue.
The Local understands the British Embassy are pushing French authorities to introduce a grace period of a year to allow for licences to be exchanged.
The Local understands that French authorities have returned applications to certain British residents telling those who applied for a licence that in the event of a no-deal Brexit the government will pass legislation allowing them to continue driving under the current conditions until new terms are laid out.
So at least on March 30th Britons won't have to leave their cars at home.
Those who have received their "attestation", means their applications will likely be processed albeit with long delays.
As far as we know, applications are still being processed in the French capital although a spokesperson for the Paris Prefecture de Police told The Local that "there are significant delays". 
The 'Applying for a French driving licence' Facebook group has called on people to stop sending their applications until after Brexit: "Currently on hold no applications to be sent to Nantes until we know what is happening after the 29th." 
But they advise that when the process to exchange a licence is put in place, it is a good idea to send an "application suivi/avec avis de réception".
In the case of a delay, applicants at least have proof that the exchange has been requested if their new licence is requested by your insurer or even the Gendarmes.
While Britons have the right to drive until Britain's withdrawal date from the EU, currently expected to take place on March 29th, what happens after that remains unclear.
The French government said more details on the specific reciprocal 'dispositions' for exchanging driving licences in the case of a no deal would be released at a later date and it is possible that UK permit holders who reside in France may ultimately have to get a French driving permit and will be given a period of grace to obtain it. 
French authorities in Nantes previously told The Local that Britons wanting to live in France after a no deal will be able to drive with a UK permit for up to a year, and must apply for an exchange within that time. But had originally encouraged people to not wait until the end of March.
British tourists in France will still be able to drive using a UK driving licence as they can today.
If the current Brexit deal on the table is ratified by MPs in London then will be a transition period until December 2020 meaning Britons can continue to driver on their UK licence as they do now.
French authorities will state at a later date what the procedure will be for after that transition period.


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Anonymous 2019/03/05 18:38
I am surprised that some brits are only now considering applying for an EU driving license. The UK D/L requires you to have a valid UK address. If you have moved to an EU country and the address is no longer valid then nor is the D/L. Imagine being on holiday in the UK or hiring a car and being asked about the address. I obtained a german one on selling my home in the UK. I also had to reregister my car and take out local insurance.
Anonymous 2019/03/05 17:53
This is how Germany sees the issue. A EU photo Licence issued in any EU country is a VALID EU DOCUMENT irrespective of Brexit. Under EU law France must change this document irrespective of any silly ideas it has when this document expires. P.s The time it takes to change a UK licence to a German one is 2 weeks. Go figure.

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