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British drivers in Europe to escape speed camera fines (and vice versa)

The UK's departure from the EU means British drivers snared by speed cameras on roads in Europe will no longer be sent fines. And those Britons, resident in the EU, who return to the UK in foreign registered cars will also avoid fines.

British drivers in Europe to escape speed camera fines (and vice versa)
Speed cameras in France have snared tens of thousands of British drivers. AFP

As a member of the EU, Britain had signed up to a directive that allowed member states to share the contact details of those caught by speed cameras.

The directive was introduced because data revealed that a high percentage of speeding offences were committed by foreign drivers who were escaping the financial penalties.

Naturally Britain's departure from the EU on January 1st means that for the foreseeable future British holidaymakers and second-home owners driving in EU countries will not be issued fines if they are snared.

The same goes for drivers of EU-registered cars travelling on roads in the UK who are caught speeding or committing other driving offences caught on camera.

Since Britain signed up to the directive and began the data sharing in 2019, hundreds of thousands of British holidaymakers have been fined.

In France alone some 444, 378 fines were sent to British drivers in 2019 which according to French driving site Caradisiac was the equivalent of between €30 to €60 million.

With such big sums of money at stake it's no surprise some EU countries are intent on negotiating bilateral agreements with the UK to ensure contact details are shared in future.

“We will initiate bilateral negotiations with the UK, in order to reach an agreement like we have with Switzerland,” a French Interior Ministry spokesperson told Caradisiac.

But the UK is unlikely to be a in rush to enter into those talks, not least because of the ongoing pandemic that has crippled travel to and from the EU, but also because it just might not be worth it financially.

The UK avoided signing up to the cross-border directive for many years because it believed it just wasn't profitable to process the fines abroad given the relatively small number of European-based drivers caught speeding in the UK.

For certain EU countries like Spain and France where British holidaymakers and second-home owners often travel by car, it's a different matter.

British drivers who are pulled over by local police in the EU for speeding or other offences will still have to pay their fines, however.

France's ministry of interior lamented the fact that Britain was no longeIn a statement to The Local a spokesperson said: “The purpose of the directive is to put an end to the impunity of motorists who commit offences in a Member State other than that of their residence, to improve road safety throughout the EU and to guarantee the equal treatment between drivers whether or not they are residents of the Member State where the offence was committed.

Through this exchange system, Member States can identify the owners of vehicles with which the infringement has been committed in their territory and send them notifications of infringements.”
 

Reminder

The 2015 European Directive, nicknamed Cross-Border Directive does not only target drivers caught on camera speeding or running red lights.

It covers six other offences:

  • failure to wear a seat belt
  • driving while intoxicated
  • driving under drugs
  • the non-wearing of a helmet by two-wheeler drivers
  • driving on a prohibited lane
  • mobile phone use while driving

 

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BRITS IN EUROPE

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.

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