Spanish police ‘to come down heavy’ on British expats using UK licences: ‘Heavy fines’

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British expats in Spain were warned to exchange their UK driving licences for Spanish ones in the run-up to Brexit. Before the UK left the EU on January 31 last year, Britons were urged to make the switch, because the Spanish authorities were no longer going to recognise the UK documents. After the Brexit transition period expired at the end of last year, Britons residing in Spain were given a six-month grace period by the Spanish government to exchange their licences.

After this period the UK documents would cease to be valid.

However, an extension was agreed between London and Madrid in June until the end of October.

Then, last month, with the new deadline just days away, another extension was agreed until December 31.

This means that UK licence holders living in Spain can now continue legally driving until the end of this year.

However, once this new deadline expires, the Spanish police are set to take a hard line on British expats still using their UK licences to drive, a British councillor in the country has claimed to Express.co.uk.

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Bill Anderson said Spain’s Guardia Civil – the police force in charge of the roads – is going “to come down heavy” on Britons.

Mr Anderson is a councillor for the Partido Popular in the Costa del Sol town of Mijas and has lived in Spain for almost 20 years.

He said: “If they haven’t got their application in to exchange their licences, then they’re going to have serious problems.

“They’re not going to be able to drive down here, and they [the police] will be checking that.”

UK licence holders living in Spain were advised to register their intent to exchange their documents with Spain’s Dirección General de Tráfico (DGT) by December last year.

Those who did are now eligible to exchange their licence for a Spanish one until December 31 of this year without having to re-take their practical test.

However, those who did not register in time will have to re-take the Spanish practical test.

Last month’s extension means that expats will now have extra time to deal with any administrative and bureaucratic issues that may be thrown up at the DGT.

Mr Anderson claimed that he was aware locally of police stepping up their efforts to identify UK drivers.

He said: “I know as well, anecdotally, that they are checking out for British-registered vehicles.”

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He said that before Brexit people would come to Spain “and spend as much time as they wanted because nobody checked it.”

The expat added: “They’d bring their car down with them and it would be six, seven, eight months maybe in a year.

“My understanding is that they are checking up on British-registered vehicles and it will be up to the owner of the vehicle to demonstrate how long it’s been registered here, not up to the Guardia Civil to prove that they’ve been here over the time allocated.”

People driving in Spain without an approved licence can have their points deducted – under the Spanish system drivers have points removed from their licence for infractions, rather than added.

Not having an approved licence is also punishable by a prison term of three to six months and heavy fines.

Mr Anderson said that British expats in Spain will “feel the pinch” if caught without a valid licence.

He added: “There are heavy fines, people really should have exchanged their driving licences or registered their intention to exchange them for a Spanish licence if they’re resident here by 2020.

“I know a lot of professional people who’ve been here decades and they’re saying to me, ‘I never got round to it, I never changed my driving licence over’.”

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