Prompted by recent comments on various facebook groups, I did extensive research and found that relevant sources, government and semi-official, Spanish and British, mentioned different things on their websites or facebook pages, relevant for the situation post a no-deal Brexit. We check those sources regularly and it appears that the information provided has been edited recently.
The websites of DGT Tráfico, Moncloa and the Spanish Ministry now do not mention the International Driving Licence (IDL) at all, other sources do. All the official Spanish sources mention that in a no-deal scenario UK licences are valid to drive during the 9 months ‘grace period’ and refer to the ‘general rules’ for once the 9 months have passed. Reason to go back to the source to find factual info on those general rules. The source in this case is the General Reglament for Drivers as that deals with the validity of driving licences/permits.
What licences are valid to drive in Spain?
We all know about the licences from category 1. Valid for visits as tourists, so non-residents. Residents need to check if their licences are subject to the ‘2 year resident protocol’ and if not, their licences are valid to drive here until the photocard needs to be renewed for a Spanish one. For residents from the UK, there is the special Brexit Protocol that allows them to submit the application to exchange their UK licence for a Spanish permit before January 31st. To be followed by an appointment during the 9 month ‘grace period in case of a no-deal Brexit’ as of February 2020, to hand over original the UK licence to receive a temporary Spanish permit in return. Assuming that the UK will have left the EU by then. If the application to exchange a UK licence for a Spanish permit has not been made before the exit date, and in case the UK leaves the EU without a deal, as of the day after the exit date, it will no longer be possible to exchange a UK licence for a Spanish one. You have to take both theory and practical test to obtain a Spanish licence. Your UK licence will be valid to drive in Spain for a limited amount of time, see the paragraphs below.
What category will UK licences be, once the UK has left the EU (no-deal scenario)?
In my interpretation, all UK licences issued pre-Brexit will be in category 2, as they are EU format and all EU licences are issued in compliance with the Conventions mentioned. If the UK does not change anything to the format of the pink photocards, licence codes etc. then most likely licences issued post-Brexit will be in category 2 as well.
This interpretation is in line with the info on the Spanish websites mentioned above, re no IDL needed during nor after the 9 months ‘grace period’.
How long can I drive in Spain on my non-EU UK licence after the 9 months ‘grace period’?
Once an authorised resident, for max. 6 months. If not a resident (yet), for max. 6 months after arrival in Spain.
But, after Brexit, as a non-EU non-resident, I´m only allowed to be in the Schengen zone for max. 90 days in a 180-day period?
Yes, but imagine a situation in which a non-EU immigrant has obtained a residency visa, has applied for residency in Spain, but is waiting for his TIE residency documentation. This whole process can take longer than 90 days, so then this provision is useful.
What to do after those 6 months?
As a resident, after the UK has left the EU in a no-deal scenario, you´ll need to obtain a Spanish driving permit by sitting exams.
With an IDL, can I extend that period of 6 months?
So, where does the confusion about the IDL from?
Probably from the assumption that all non-EU driving licences need to be accompanied by an IDL to be valid to drive in Spain. Not taking into account that UK licences meet the criteria under point 2, so are valid to drive in Spain on their own.
And what if the UK signs a Withdrawal Agreement?
If they sign a withdrawal agreement that includes a transition period, then the status quo will continue during that period, i.e. continued mutual recognition of validity of driving licences. Same rules re renewal/exchange etc. What happens after that, depends on future negotiations. Worst case scenario would be if the UK changes the format of the driving licences so that they no longer comply with the Convenios mentioned under category 2. Then you would need an IDL to legally drive in Spain. Best case scenario would be if negotiations lead to a convenio that allows the exchange of UK driving licences for Spanish permits, so without having to sit exams to obtain them.
Note the recently published info re three different possible exit-dates.
Following the vote, as required by the European Union (Withdrawal) (No.2) Act 2019, an extension to the Article 50(3) period has been sought and agreed with the European Council to 11 pm on 31 January 2020, with opportunities to leave the EU earlier, on 30 November and 31 December 2019.
The Government has no plans to have further negotiations and the European Council decision on the extension excludes any re-opening of the Withdrawal Agreement.
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