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BREXIT

How UK drivers in Italy face new problems after passing Italian driving test

If an exchange deal cannot be reached, UK licence holders who sit their driving exams again in Italy will face higher insurance costs and may be unable to drive their own car. Here's a look at the rules.

British driving license holders in Italy face increased restrictions if they pass the Italian test.
British driving license holders in Italy face increased restrictions if they pass the Italian test. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP.

With less than three months to go until the end of the year, the UK and Italy have yet to reach a reciprocal agreement on driving licences – meaning British licence holders could find themselves barred from driving in Italy from January.

When Britain left the EU, there was no reciprocal agreement in place, but UK licence holders living in Italy were granted a one-year 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.

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

With negotiations reportedly ongoing, British ambassador Ed Llewellyn has advised Brits living in Italy to take an Italian driving test to ensure they can continue to drive beyond the end of the calendar year.

But besides the cost and time commitment of taking a test in Italy – not to mention the fact that the exam must be completed in Italian, requiring a very strong grasp of the language – those who do manage to pass the test face the additional hurdle of being considered a ‘new driver’ (neopatentato/a) in Italy.

Drivers in Italy are considered neopatentati for three years after passing the exam, and face a range of driving restrictions in that time.

READ ALSO:

Limitations for novice drivers include tighter speed limits on motorways and main roads, harsher driving penalty points and limits on car engine capacity and power.

This might mean that if you already own a high-powered vehicle, you can no longer drive it once you’ve obtained your new permit.

As well as carrying restrictions on the maximum engine size of the car the holder may drive, newly issued licences come with tighter speed limits on the motorway and extra penalty points for breaking them.

Some of the rules for neopatentati include:

  • A speed limit of 100km/hr on motorways and 90km/hr on major roads outside of cities (for those on normal licences, the limits are 130km/hr on motorways and 110km/hr on major roads).
  • Being limited to an engine power of 55 kW/ton or a maximum of 70kw (90 HP) for the first year after passing the exam.
  • A doubling of any penalty points for infractions of the Highway Code for the first three years after passing the test.
  • A blood alcohol content tolerance of zero for the first three years (after which this rises to 0.5 grams per litre of blood).

Aside from the Highway Code, there’s the issue of insurance premiums, which in Italy – as in most countries – are far higher for ‘novice’ licence holders than they are for experienced drivers.

And many companies won’t rent or lease cars to new drivers, meaning some resident who’ve recently passed their Italian test could be unable to drive altogether for lack of an available vehicle.

One frustrated Brit in Puglia told The Local earlier this year that he was “honestly dis-incentivised to get the Italian licence unless there seriously is a real ‘no deal’ scenario on the table.”

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

“Because if I get an Italian licence now – and of course I could choose now to invest a lot of time and money to get it – and then an agreement is reached to exchange licenses, then I might find myself in a worse position than if I just waited to do an exchange.”

Some residents have urged the British embassy to confirm that the option of switching to a normal licence will be included in any eventual agreement for those who do follow its advice and take the Italian test.

“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,” says reader Graeme.

“Without answering this question most people will wait until the 31st of December.”

Have you got any further questions on the UK-Italy driving licence agreement? Let us know in the comments below or contact us with your questions.

Find our latest Brexit-related news updates for UK nationals in Italy here.

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

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BREXIT

Brexit Brits in EU feel European and don’t want to return home, survey reveals

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, survey reveals

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.

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