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MP calls for UK to resolve driving licence exchange block in France

Sir Roger Gale tells ministers of difficulties some Britons in France now face – and the fact it is not the same for EU citizens in the UK

5 May 2021
By Liv Rowland

A UK MP known for his support for Britons abroad has called on ministers for “an urgent reappraisal of the situation” over delays with driving licence exchange in France.

Contacted by The Connexion over the issue, Sir Roger Gale (Con), MP for North Thanet in Kent, has asked Department for Transport ministers including Baroness Vere (Conservative) to look into the ongoing problems due to the impossibility of exchanging a UK driving licence for a French licence since January 1, 2021.

This so far especially impacts those whose British licences have now expired, for example due to reaching age 70, as a UK licence may only be renewed by UK residents.

Before Brexit, UK licences were deemed EU licences and could be used in France until expiry, and could also be exchanged for a French licence via an online process – although the system has been beset by delays in recent years, especially since the Covid pandemic.

Since the end of the transition period UK licences may not be exchanged in France and the French have only ruled that they will be acceptable in France, if valid, until the end of 2021, or for one year for newcomers to France.

This is pending bilateral talks between the UK and France on an agreement on driving licences, which are still ongoing and have been for at least six weeks. These have now been concluded with EU states apart from France, Italy and Spain

Official French sources say France only permits exchange of non-EU licences where it has a reciprocal exchange agreement in place with the issuing country. 

However The Connexion reported in its May print edition and online  that the situation is not reciprocal, as those driving on EU licences in the UK, including French, may either keep using them while valid or until age 70, or exchange them for a British one.

Sir Roger told ministers in an email: “The Connexion, and another expat whose email will follow, highlight two issues of concern.

“The first is the difficulty that a number of (particularly elderly) UK citizens resident within the EU in general and in France in particular are having in obtaining a valid replacement driving licence.

“The second is the apparent disparity between the treatment of UK citizens in the EU and EU citizens in the UK and because of this latter point I am copying this to the Cabinet Office also.

“I would welcome your urgent reappraisal of this situation.”

Sir Roger also forwarded to the ministers an email from a Briton in the Lot-et-Garonne, who wrote of the “chaos being caused by the current impasse with exchanging UK driving licences for French ones”.

Many Britons in such rural areas are now “worried sick” because they have no legal right to drive, she said.

She added: “Rural France has virtually no bus, train or taxi services so the only choice is to drive”.

Sir Roger told The Connexion he will let us know the ministers’ response when one is received.

A similar situation exists with regard to disabled people’s blue badges, as the UK currently recognises EU ones but France does not recognise British badges for use in France.

The Connexion was previously told by the Department for Transport that this was also under discussion; we have asked if there is any progress on this.

Read more

Still no deal on UK driving licence swap in France 

Talks between UK and France begin on driving licence swap 

Using a French blue disabled badge in the UK 

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