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What Brexit means for British drivers in Italy

Should you swap your British licence? And do you need to re-register your car? Citizens' rights group British in Italy explains what drivers need to consider before the UK leaves the EU.

What Brexit means for British drivers in Italy
Brexit won't stop Brits driving in Italy, but it will throw some extra obstacles in their path. Photo: Christophe Simon/AFP

The British embassy and UK government websites advise everyone to swap their UK driving licences for an Italian one. While the UK is a member of the EU, that is generally a fairly straightforward process. So yes, if you can you should – before B-Day (now set for the 31st of January).

However, Brexit being Brexit, things are not always that simple.

FOR MEMBERS: How to swap your British driving licence for an Italian one

You can exchange your existing British licence for an Italian one subject to two rather obvious conditions:

  1. That the licence is still valid.
  2. That you are legally resident.

But there is a snag.

Now that the Withdrawal Agreement has been passed in parliament, any British resident in Italy (and the EU) will have until the end of the transition period, namely until December 31st 2020, to exchange their British licence for an Italian or other EU country licence.

READ ALSO: The ultimate no-deal Brexit checklist for Brits in Italy

Many British would-be residents will not have managed to get through the various bureaucratic hurdles prior to brexi day or its extension – for a variety of reasons, such as not being able to obtain the appointment with the local comune in time.

But British in Italy has been assured by the Italian government that so long as they can prove that they were resident on or before Brexit day or its extension, their applications for residence should be approved and back-dated.

There is, however, no similar leeway for applications to switch driving licences. So when you go to request the change, you will have to show proof of residence – usually a carta d’identità. And if that is after Brexit Day, it seems likely that it will be too late.

READ ALSO: Brits in Italy, it's your last chance to apply for residency as EU citizens

Your UK licence will no longer be valid for driving in Europe after Brexit and to stay on the road, you will need to acquire an International Driving Permit. There are two different ones required for European countries so check out which one you need for whichever country or countries you wish to drive in; and in either case you'll need the obligatory green insurance card as well.

For those who drive a UK registered car here, there is another snag. You now need to apply to re-register it in Italy within 60 days of your arrival! So which ‘arrival’ do you claim for that one? And while it is being re-registered you might try to find a friend with a spare car, because yours will be off the road for however long it takes.

FOR MEMBERS: Why Italy's new security decree could be a headache for foreign drivers

Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

If you can persuade your friend to lend you theirs for a while, it is probably cheaper than re-registering a UK car. Wait for the next rottamazione or scrappage scheme (a more or less five-yearly event when the Italian car industry needs a little help), see if you can hand over the redundant UK-registered vehicle and get a massive discount on the brand-new Italian one.

P.S. Remember to take the spare house keys out of the glove box prior to its rottamazione; it's not easy to find them once the car has been crushed!

This article was written by British in Italy. Check their website and join their Facebook group for more Brexit advice.

Member comments

  1. This seems to suggest that if the December 31 deadline is missed for residency, but residency is achieved after December 31, it would be too late for a straight swop but it would still be possible to drive in Italy with a UK license coupled with an international driving license. True?

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Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don’t want to return home

The majority of Britons who live in the EU, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland and are protected under the Brexit agreement feel European and intend to remain in Europe permanently, but many have concerns about travel problems, a new survey reveals.

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don't want to return home

The research also shows that problems exist and “travel is where most issues relating to the new status currently occur”. For instance, border officials are still stamping passports of UK citizens with residence rights under the EU UK withdrawal agreement, even though they shouldn’t.

“There is constant confusion around passport stamping. I was ‘stamped in’ to France on a short trip… but could not find anyway to be ‘stamped out’ again. I think I can only spend 90 days in other EU countries, but have no idea how anyone can check or enforce that – until someone decides to try. It’s a mess,” was one of the answers left in an open question.

“Every time I go through a Schengen border control, I need to provide both my passport and Aufenthaltstitel card [resident permit in Germany] and watch to check that they don’t stamp my passport. As I am currently travelling a lot that’s been 20-odd times this year…” another respondent said.

The survey was carried out by Professor Tanja Bueltmann, historian of migration and diaspora at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, between October and November 2022. About 1,139 UK citizens replied.

Of these, 80 per cent found acquiring their new status easy or very easy, 60.7 per cent feel their rights are secure, while 39.3 per cent have concerns about their status going forward.

Staying permanently

More than three quarters (76.6 per cent) of respondents said they plan to live permanently in the EU or the other countries of the European Economic Area and Switzerland. In fact, 65.7 per cent said that Brexit has increased the likelihood of this choice.

For some, the decision is linked to the difficulty to bring non-British family members to the UK under new, stricter immigration rules.

“My German wife and I decided we no longer wanted to live in UK post Brexit referendum. In particular, we were affected by the impact of immigration law […] We cannot now return to UK on retirement as I cannot sponsor her on my pension. We knew it was a one-way journey. Fortunately, I could revive an application for German citizenship,” was a testimony.

“My husband is a US citizen and getting him a visa for the UK was near impossible due to my low income as a freelance journalist. We realized under EU law, moving to an EU country was easier. We settled on Austria as we had both lived there before… we could speak some German, and we like the mountains,” said another respondent.

Professor Bueltmann noted that the loss of free movement rights in the EU could be a factor too in the decision of many to stay where they are.

Citizenship and representation

Among those who decided to stay, 38.2 per cent are either applying or planning to apply for a citizenship and 28.6 per cent are thinking about it.

A key finding of the research, Bueltmann said, is that the vast majority of British citizens do not feel politically represented. Some 60 per cent of respondents said they feel unrepresented and another 30 per cent not well represented.

Another issue is that less than half (47.5 per cent) trust the government of their country of residence, while a larger proportion (62 per cent) trust the European Union. Almost all (95.6 per cent) said they do not trust the UK government.

Feeling European

The survey highlights the Brexit impacts on people’s identity too. 82.6 per cent of respondents said they see themselves as European, a higher proportion than those identifying as British (68.9 per cent).

“Brexit has really left me unsure of what my identity is. I don’t feel British, and I certainly don’t identify with the mindset of a lot of British people who live there. Yet, I am not Danish either. So, I don’t really know anymore!” said one of the participants in the survey.

Professor Bueltmann said the survey “demonstrates that Brexit impacts continue to evolve: this didn’t just stop because the transition period was over or a deadline for an application had been reached. Consequently, Brexit continues to shape the lives and experiences of British citizens in the EU/EEA and Switzerland in substantial, sometimes life-altering, ways.”

Considering the results of the study, Professor Bueltmann recommends policy makers in the EU and the UK to address the issue of lack of representation, for instance creating a joint UK-EU citizens’ stakeholder forum.

The report also recommends the UK government to rebuild trust with British citizens in the EU introducing voting rights for life and changing immigration rules to allow British-European families to return more easily. 

This article was prepared in cooperation with Europe Street News.