Thousands of Brits in France have been blocked from exchanging their driving licences for French ones due to the lack of a post-Brexit reciprocal agreement – and some people have ended up stranded and unable to drive as their licence expired while they were waiting.
Now, however, a spokesman for the British Embassy in Paris said the agreement is “in the final stages and we expect to be publishing updated guidance very soon”.
The update follows a written answer in the UK parliament which seemed to suggest that the UK had already concluded post-Brexit reciprocal agreements with all EU countries apart from Italy.
The Conservative Baroness Vere of Norbiton, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Department for Transport, stated: “All EU/EEA Member States, except for Italy, have confirmed reciprocal arrangements for exchanging licences, confirming that a retest will not be required for resident UK nationals.
“Most of our agreements are permanent arrangements and a small number require formal agreements which will be concluded before the end of this year. Where these agreements are needed, the UK has secured interim arrangements with the relevant Member States. All EU/EEA countries have confirmed that International Driving Permits will not be required by UK visitors.”
British residents in France are currently blocked from swapping their licences as the reciprocal agreement has not yet been confirmed.
In Sweden, UK licence holders are still waiting for the deal to be ratified by the Swedish parliament before they can begin the swap process, while in Spain UK licence holders who did not register to swap before December 31st 2020 face having to take a Spanish test.
The saga of swapping UK driving licences for French ones has been a long and complicated one, with several changes to official advice and a complete block on most Brits exchanging their licences in place since 2019.
For Brits who are permanent residents in France, UK licences remain legal to drive on until December 31st, 2021. However those whose licence has expired – either because they have reached the age of 70 or because they have a medical condition that requires regular renewing of the licence – have been left unable to either renew their UK licence or swap it for a French one.
Initially there was supposed to be a 12-month window for Brits to swap their licence for a French one, but the continued lack of an agreement means that is now reduced to nine months.
People who do not manage to swap in time, or whose licence expires while they are waiting, face having to take a French driving test, a lengthy and expensive undertaking with a series of compulsory lessons that takes the average cost of the whole process to around €1,000.
The swap requirements only apply to UK licence holders who have their full-time residence in France, tourists, visitors and second-home owners can continue to use their UK licence and do not need an International Driving Permit.
The swap rules apply to all UK driving licence holders, even those who have French citizenship.
In an official UK government response to a petition organised by UK nationals living in France, the government said it was “working with the French government to finalise this agreement”.
The response added: “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.”