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BREXIT

Driving licences: Are the UK and Italy any closer to reaching an agreement?

With ongoing uncertainty over whether UK driving licences will continue to be recognised in Italy from next year, and December fast approaching, British residents are asking where they stand.

Driving licences: Are the UK and Italy any closer to reaching an agreement?
Driving in Italy on a UK licence is fine if you're a tourist - but for residents, the situation is becoming complicated. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Note: This article is no longer being updated. Please see the latest news in our Brexit news section.

With just a few months until the end of the year, a number of The Local’s British readers have been in touch to ask whether any progress has been made on a reciprocal driving license agreement between the UK and Italy.

If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance that you’re familiar with the background of this Brexit consequence.

READ ALSO: Frustration grows as UK driving licence holders in Italy wait in limbo

When Britain left the EU there was no reciprocal agreement in place, but UK licence holders living in Italy were granted a grace period in which they could continue to drive on their British licences. This period was later extended to the current deadline of December 31st, 2022.

The situation beyond that date however remains unclear, and concern is growing among the sizeable number of British nationals living in Italy who say no longer being allowed to drive would be a serious problem.

There was the option of exchanging licences before the end of 2021, but many didn’t make the deadline. As has been proven before, this was often not due to slackness but rather all manner of circumstances, from having moved to Italy after or shortly before the cut-off date to bureaucratic delays.

Driving licences: How does the situation for Brits in Italy compare to rest of Europe?

So is an agreement any closer? Or do those driving in Italy on a UK licence really need to go to the considerable trouble and expense of sitting an Italian driving test (in Italian)?

With less than three months now left to go, there’s still no indication as to whether a decision will be made either way.

The Local contacted the British embassy for an update on the situation, and on Wednesday received the following statement from an embassy spokesperson:

“We completely understand the concerns of British citizens living in Italy on this issue. Being able to drive is vital to so many British citizens living here, from running businesses to being able to get to medical appointments.

“Negotiating an agreement with Italy on the exchange of driving licences before the end of the year remains right at the top of the Embassy’s priorities.

“Since our update in August we have continued and intensified further our work with our Italian colleagues and have made progress towards our shared objective. We look forward to providing a further update as soon as we can.”

When pressed on the reasons for the hold up, and asked whether British driving license holders in Italy can expect another eleventh-hour extension to the grace period, the embassy said it could not comment further.

In the meantime, the British government continues to advise licence holders to sit their Italian driving test – while also stressing that they’re working hard on reaching a deal, which would make taking the test unnecessary.

READ ALSO:  Do you have to take Italy’s driving test in Italian?

The August update referenced in the embassy’s latest statement refers to a video posted to its Facebook page by British Ambassador to Italy Ed Llewellyn on August 4th.

In the video, the ambassador says that he has recently been in contact with Italy’s transport minister over the issue, and that discussions would continue through August.

As of early October, however, British residents of Italy are still no closer to knowing what the outcome of those talks has been.

Llewellyn adds in his August video update: “our advice remains that you don’t need, if you speak Italian, to wait for that agreement – you can go down the route of taking the Italian test.”

This advice echoes that given in an official newsletter published in mid-July, in which Llewellyn acknowledged the concerns of British residents and confirmed that negotiations are still going on, while urging them to take the Italian test.

READ ALSO: ‘Anyone can do it’: Why passing your Italian driving test isn’t as difficult as it sounds

“We hope it will be possible to reach an agreement – that is our objective and we are working hard to try to deliver it. 

Nevertheless, he said, “our advice is not to wait to exchange your licence.”

“If you need to drive in Italy, you can take action now by applying for an Italian licence. This will, however, involve taking a practical and theory test.” 

He acknowledged that “the process is not a straightforward one and that there are delays in some areas to book an appointment for a test”.

The Local will continue to publish any news on the recognition of British driving licences in Italy. See the latest updates in our Brexit-related news section here.

Find more information on the UK government website’s Living in Italy section.

Member comments

  1. The one question we would all like to know is. If we get our licence now which will be a neopatentati, will we be able to exchange for a normal one if there is a deal. Without answering this question then mist people will wait until the 31st December. Answers are needed one way or the other!

  2. We need to know that if we pass our test now and get a neopatentati licence that we can then swap for a normal licence if there is a deal. It’s not as easy as ed thinks, “if you need to drive then do a test” is he not aware of this situation??

  3. And, it costs a fortune to sit the test. I am not a cheap person, but the quotes I received from the three autoscuole in my area were each over €1000.00!!! Highway robbery! Mamma mia!

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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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