British driving licences in Spain: The ongoing Brexit debate

UK driving licence discussions with Council of Ministers in Spain to follow 'very soon'

Driving licence negotiations have been a "top priority for UK", though Brits in Spain complain. Image: Yau Ming Low/

FOLLOWING the recent update on British driving licences in Spain, Euro Weekly News asked whether you think it’s right that the government is going to such lengths to come up with a solution when people could have sorted this out before Brexit.

Hugh Elliott, British Ambassador to Spain, announced some positive news for British ex-pats in Spain and the Balearics affected by the driving licence headache, which left many Spanish residents from the UK unable to drive in the country – unless they sat a driving test.

The ambassador said on Friday, November 18: “Today we have made a significant step forward. You may recall that we have been in discussions with the Spanish for some weeks over two outstanding, complex issues.

“I’m pleased to be able to tell you that we have now reached an agreement on those two points.

“So we will now take forward the remaining steps including legal checks, securing ministerial approval on both sides, which for Spain is by the Consejo de Ministros (the Spanish Cabinet), and the necessary treaty processes and formal exchanges.

“What I can’t tell you today is exactly how many weeks those final steps will take. But I can tell you that the process is already.”

He explains that once legal and political approvals are done, confirmation will be published on the BOE, or state bulletin.

While no exact time frame has been given, it appears that it is just bureaucracy that stands in the way of licences being exchanged.

Once sorted, British residents in Spain will have another six-month grace period to exchange their licence for a Spanish one, in which time they can continue to use a valid UK licence.

The announcement reignited the argument about whether many Brits living in Spain should have sorted this out before Brexit and whether the Spanish government going to such lengths to accommodate Brits on this issue sets dangerous precedence going forward.

Issues debated online ranged from a view that government announcements now mean less since they can be instantly changed, to the effect on the Spanish economy as Brits start ditching driving lessons in Spain.

However, some people noted that the change could mean that more people will now relocate to Spanish sunshine.

People took to social media to discuss relevant points brought up in the wake of Hugh Elliott’s announcement.

One person said that “1000s [of people] did try and sort [their driving licence] before Brexit!! They were told to register details with 060, then got told they didn’t register! Or they had incompetent Lawyers/Gestors.”

“I spent days trying to get appointments. When we get the go-ahead to get appointments I shall certainly get someone to help us, as this is the last chance saloon,” another wrote.

While despite the news, another Brit wrote on Facebook: “This is positive news but how are yourselves and the Spanish side going to build back trust for your citizens and residents after this…”

Another said: “And STILL people moan. There’s just no pleasing some. If you’re moaning now…..wait until you try and get a licence swap. The TIE debacle/backlog still hasn’t been sorted and over 300,000 are waiting to take a driving test. I’ll wait here patiently for the deluge of abuse that starts once time starts to run out and people STILL haven’t managed to get a licence swap.”

“It’d be great now if people could start using their UK licenses while the politicians get on with it, now it’s been agreed, can you also assure me that there will be enough appointments for all that need one?” another person wrote.

“I’ve lived here long enough to know that when it comes to official departments they are very unorganised and the only people that suffer are those that are completely innocent.”

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Written by

Matthew Roscoe

Originally from the UK, Matthew is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at


    • Orson

      21 November 2022 • 07:55

      My partner tried well before brexit only to be told by his gestor for over a year that his application was with trafico, when it had actually been rejected as incorrect.
      I had residencia refused and had to make appeals, it was finally granted in January 2022. There was no provision then to exchange my licence. My gestor told me to wait as they expected it was imminent. After 6 months I could no longer drive and my gestor told me it was approx 1 year waiting list to sit theory test in English, then I had to sit car test and motorcycle test.
      I have friends in same position that came out January 2022 on non lucrative visa.
      I’m sick of smug brits saying this should have been sorted before brexit.

    • Renato Besomi

      21 November 2022 • 18:11

      Brexit, Brexit, Brexit. But the UK is sooooo much better off now.

      • Andrew Cremona

        22 November 2022 • 11:09

        Renato, how is the UK sooooo much better off with Brexit?

    Comments are closed.