Since May 1, UK driving licence holders are unable to drive in Spain if they have been permanent residents there for more than six months. British holidaymakers, however, can still use their DVLA-issued licences in Spain as normal. Expats who live in Spain had the chance to exchange their driving licence for a Spanish one, before the deadline on April 30.
Now that the deadline has passed, expats have to retake a driving test, including a theoretical and a practical examination, to obtain a Spanish driving licence.
The failure of the two governments along with the cost of the test has left many in agony.
Such is the case of Sarah Wagstaff, from Watford, who has been living in Tenerife for the past six years, but struggled to meet the cost to exchange her licence.
Ms Wagstaff told Express.co.uk: “I started the application in February 2020 and then during the pandemic I was living on €462 a month on ERTE (Spanish furlough).
“I was told I had two years to do it so I decided to wait until I was back at work but by then, my application expired.
“So now I’m stuck paying €10 each way to work in taxi.”
Ms Wagstaff works for an animal refuge called Live Paws Rescue Animals Tenerife.
During the lockdown, she volunteered to support the homeless and vulnerable and has won an award for her community work.
She said: “People have already struggled financially the last 2 years, to pay and have the extra stress of passing a test again is just silly!”
Regarding the cost to exchange her licence prior to the deadline, which was €90 to start the process, and then an additional cost for a medical test, she said: “It may not sound much but when you are living of 462 a month which includes keeping a roof over your head and feeding yourself it is…”
Asked about the failing negotiations, Ms Wagstaff commented: “This is a really simple tick from the to do list of our governments!
“Extend the grace period until it has been officially decided what to do.
“No one can afford to pay for lessons right now…”
Another expat from Worthing, West Sussex said he now relies on his British neighbours who are in Spain for holiday to move around in Santa Pola.
Andrew Garret moved to Alicante, Spain, in June 2020 and couldn’t manage to change his UK driving licence to a Spanish one due to a delay in getting his residency card, which was a precondition to exchanging a driving licence.
He told Express.co.uk: “The process of getting residency took so long and I didn’t get my residency card until 2021 because of the lockdown here.
“I was then caught in a time trap of not having our residency confirmed and being out of time to exchange my licence.
“I am now completely reliant on my British neighbours, who are out here on holiday, because they of course can drive here in Spain without any restrictions whatsoever.
“I am fortunate to have them here until the end of June.”
And added: “I have been living, like thousands here in Spain, with the promise that negotiations’ to allow us to exchange our licences were ongoing and positive until the hammer fell last Saturday and now we’re stranded.”
However, even before the deadline passed, exchanging a UK licence for a Spanish one was a rather lengthy and costly process, expats clasim.
Spain expat Michael Beevers, who managed to change his licence before the deadline, told Express.co.uk: “I cannot understand why this exchange was made so difficult.”
“Essentially the only change that is made is that ‘UK’ gets changed to ‘E.’
“The licence remains pink, the categories remain the same, the format remains the same.
“It truly is the folly of Brexit on full show that this that was so easy has been made impossible.”
A UK government statement on the issue reads: “The British and Spanish governments continue to negotiate on long-term arrangements for exchanging driving licences without needing to take a practical test.”
The British Ambassador to Spain and Andorra, Hugh Elliot, stated on Tuesday that a new extension to the grace period was requested from the Spanish government.
He added that the delay is due to Spain having asked for data on vehicle owners to be provided by the UK side.
Mr Elliot said that this is “more complex”, which is why a resolution is being delayed, and acknowledge that the delay is “very disruptive” for the group affected.