Couple who moved to Mallorca ‘punished’ by post-Brexit driving rules

UK motorways: Highways England warns drivers of speed limits

We use your sign-up to provide content in ways you’ve consented to and to improve our understanding of you. This may include adverts from us and 3rd parties based on our understanding. You can unsubscribe at any time. More info

A husband and wife who moved from London to Mallorca a year ago have highlighted their struggle to become relicensed as motorists after being caught out by post-Brexit arrangements – despite one of them being a French national. The couple said they had been “punished” by an “unfair” system, accusing Spain of “not thinking of the consequence of their decisions on real-life people”.

Edith Barnes – who moved to the island with her family to improve her son’s asthma – also said that British officials “don’t seem competent or firm enough to negotiate efficiently” on the matter, which remains unresolved.

Contrary to local reports, she added that expats were able to sit their driving test in English – but said many of the questions were not translated well enough to be unambiguously understood.

Test questions, seen by, contained spelling or grammatical errors that could confuse a non-Spanish speaker.

When the UK left the EU at the start of January last year, it became a third country with respect to driver regulations, meaning licences from Britain are only valid in Spain under certain circumstances. A British driver can use their licence in the first six months of being in the country, provided it is valid, or if they applied to exchange it before December 31, 2020.

However, the Direccion General de Trafico (DGT), Spain’s driving authority, notes that those exchanges would only be processed “provided that they have been verified by the United Kingdom authorities before January 1, 2021”. Otherwise, from May 1 this year, any expats living in Spain cannot drive using a UK licence, and have to obtain a new Spanish one.

Negotiations have been ongoing between the UK and Spain to resolve the issue, but the failure to reach an agreement is beginning to draw the ire of expats living without the use of a car.

Ms Barnes said: “Life is lovely here, but not being able to drive affects considerably our mental health. Being away from family with young kids can be hard enough without having extra stress that could be so easily avoided.

“In Mallorca, you cannot solely rely on public transportation. Especially in the high season and in extreme heat. There’s also a shortage of taxis. And why would we have to pay extra to have the basic right to be mobile where you live and pay taxes?

“We participate actively in the Spanish economy and it’s crazy that we are punished for bringing more to a country. It’s heart-breaking.”

Ms Barnes is a French national, who gained her driving licence in 2003 in her home country, before “stupidly” exchanging it in 2018 “to do things properly and follow [the] rules”. She exchanged her pink paper – a now largely redundant complement to a driver’s licence that does not have an expiry date – for, as she said, “a driving ban in Spain. How crazy is that.”

When she approached the French authorities, she claimed they declined to help as she was not a French resident and was therefore “in the hands of the Spanish authorities”. Before June this year, France did not have an agreement with the UK concerning British licences.

She continued: “I am a victim of Brexit. Not being a British citizen, I was unable to vote and am suffering the long-term consequences.

Lions rescued from war-torn Ukraine find home at sanctuary in Colorado [NEWS]
Russia Guards unit in major revolt as Putin faces army morale collapse [SPOTLIGHT]
Putin ‘using belligerent and aggressive rhetoric to scare the West [REVEAL]

“Let’s not even mention the poor Spanish citizens who like me exchanged their licence, and who now can’t even drive in their own country! How can your country treat you with such disdain? I fail to understand.”

Ms Barnes’s husband, who is British, has fared similarly, and she said was “absolutely revolted” by the situation. She exclaimed: “Why can’t we see our rights maintained after Brexit if we acquired our licence before the UK left the EU? There’s still the EU flag on my permit!”

Ms Barnes estimated that the cost of re-registering for a licence – which she applied for but was unable to secure, owing to the questions she was posed – was approximately €1,000 and took 200 hours, as “you must revise” a lot to be able to pass a test two decades after passing it the first time. “Imagine yourself re-sitting your GCSEs or A-levels 20 years later.”

She added: “The test is just much, much harder than the French one I can remember. How am I supposed to know that cyclists don’t have to wear a helmet when there’s extreme temperature […] in Spain? Why am I supposed to know everything about motorcycles when I’ve never ridden one and don’t intend to?”

With a pass rate of 27 out of 30 needed for the theory test, being able to understand what is being asked of you could be the difference between a pass and a fail. Ms Barnes said the English version of the test is badly translated and sometimes makes little sense.

Revision test questions for the theory exam included: “Are the signals to warm [sic] of a manoeuvre done with your arms always valid?” For another, on reversing out of a no-through-road, one possible answer read: “Reversing the indispensable strech [sic], although you may have to invade a crossing.” Questions for the real test are viewed under exam conditions.

After spending €200 on a driving school that only had textbooks in Spanish and an app in English, Ms Barnes later discovered she could sit the theory test in French. After her debacle, she gave up and is now waiting for the authorities to resolve the situation so she can drive again.

Ms Barnes said she was angry at both the UK and Spain for failing to be able to resolve the issue in the more than 18 months since the UK left the EU.

She said that Spain had “failed” them, adding that they were “being unfair and not thinking of the consequence of their decisions on real life people, especially the ones in remote rural areas (which represent a lot of British wanting peace and quiet for their retired years) with little to no transportation”.

Ms Barnes added: “I feel they are restricting my human rights. I can’t go to the doctor (it’s a mission of two buses so I often neglect necessary check-ups); I can’t take my children around to discover the island we live in, I can’t have a normal social life, I can’t work normal hours because collecting my children from school is a two-hour operation. I am losing money.”

She also said that British officials “don’t seem competent or firm enough to negotiate efficiently” on what she saw as a “pressing diplomatic issue”.

In an update posted on Friday, the British Embassy in Madrid admitted many expats still had “questions, concerns and frustrations” about ongoing negotiations to resolve the driving licence issue, adding that it was a “top priority” for the UK Government.

Ms Barnes commented: “I’m sorry but if one diplomat can’t make anything move forward in months isn’t it time to make some changes? No matter how long these unbelievably lengthy discussions are taking why aren’t we legally allowed to drive in the meantime? Why make people’s life hell?”

She added: “Why do we agree to let Spanish people drive in the UK if they clearly ignore any law of reciprocity?”

DGT and the British Embassy in Madrid were contacted for comment.

Source: Read Full Article