Reports that UK driving licences will be ‘invalid’ in the EU after Brexit have been exaggerated – but that is not to say there will not be changes.
There is no reason UK driving licences will be unusable in France after Brexit, however it is reasonable to assume they will be treated like other ‘third country’ (ie. non EU/EEA) licences after the transition period (assuming it happens).
It is possible this could be avoided by a very ‘soft Brexit’, such as staying in the European Economic Area – the nature of the ‘future UK-EU relationship’ has yet to be agreed.
As an EU state, a UK licence may be used on holiday and resident British licence-holders can drive with it in France while it is within its validity period; it can then be exchanged with simple formalities.
Assuming that, after Brexit, driving licence rules for British licences will be as for other ‘third country’ states, British licence-holders wishing to drive in France on holiday will have to obtain an ‘international driving permit’, from the RAC, AA or a post office at a fee of around £8.
This is a document which is valid for one year and validates your British licence for use in a large number of countries. Alternatively you could in theory carry an official translation into French of the UK licence.
Those coming to live in France would need to exchange their UK licence within a year. This would require a translation that has been ‘legalised’ (a process that can be completed online for £30+p&p).
There are other issues likely to affect people from the UK visiting France after the transition period.
If there is no EHIC scheme, then visitors would be advised to take out comprehensive travel health insurance for their stay. Also any stay of more than three months is likely, as a minimum, to require a visa from a French consulate.
A further complication, set to come in during 2020 (before the end of the transition period), is Etias. Etias is a ‘visa waiver’ scheme, for non-EU visitors coming to the Schengen Zone from countries whose nationals do not need visas for short-term travel. Similar to what is required for travel to America, it will involve an online application asking for details of name, date of birth, passport number and criminal record. A fee (€7 is proposed) would be payable and it would probably last three years. More details were expected to be announced about this in April.
Connexion asked the main EU institutions how residents will prove their status (and thus not need Etias) on return to France from a holiday and we were told they may show their residence card. None of the bodies could explain what will happen in the case of Britons who have not yet applied for or obtained such a card.