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Anger Mounts Over Driving Licence Debacle For Brits In Spain Post Brexit – Olive Press News Spain

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HUNDREDS, possibly even thousands, of British expats have been left unable to drive legally in Spain after the failure to strike a bilateral deal.And they are getting angrier about it.

The British Embassy this week insisted that although they are still working on an agreement to allow the exchange of driving licences without the need for a Spanish test, it could still take weeks to strike a deal.

Since May 1, Brits who have been resident in Spain for at least six months and hadn’t yet swapped their licences for a Spanish one under a post-Brexit interim arrangement are no longer legally allowed to drive.

The deadline had been extended four times since the UK officially withdrew from the European Union while negotiations continued but Spain refused to extend the deadline beyond April 30.

One of the reasons why a deal has yet to be struck is reportedly because the UK is reluctant to provide Spanish authorities with access to its vehicle owner database so it can chase up holidaymakers with fines if they depart the country. 

Last week Transport Secretary Grant Shapps held a video meeting with his Spanish counterpart Raquel Sanchez to try to resolve the problem but to no avail.

This has affected hundreds if not thousands of Brits who were in the process of swapping their driving licences or who were waiting in the hope of a definitive deal to be struck.

It means they must now pass a Spanish driving test which has a theory and practical part in order to legally drive in Spain.

Ambassador Hugh Elliott posted a message on the Embassy Facebook page Brits in Spain on May 12 explaining that he was aware of the hardships this had caused to many expats.

“I know personally from all the messages you’ve sent in, just how incredibly disruptive all of this is for many of you,” Elliott said. 

“If you are struggling to get around you may find additional advice or support from your local town hall, or charities or community groups in your area and the Support in Spain website is another very useful source of organisations that can provide general support to residents.

“And if your inability to drive is putting you in a very vulnerable situation, you can always contact your nearest consulate for advice.”

But the ambassador insisted that authorities were ‘fully committed’ to agreeing a permanent solution.

“The agreement we’re working towards now will enable UK licence holders, whenever they arrived in Spain or arrive in the future, to exchange their UK licence for a Spanish one without needing to take a practical or a theory test,” Elliott insisted.

While there are more than 400,000 Brits officially registered as living in Spain it is impossible to know how many are affected by the licence exchange rules. However anyone who moved to Spain after December 31, 2020 will now find they have to take a driving test after six months of relocating.

 Dozens of Olive Press readers have written in in anger at the debacle with some complaining that they have been let down by gestors or received bad advice and are now completely isolated in places with no public transport.

“My wife has an oncology consultation on Monday. No public transport in our area,” admitted one. “I haven’t a clue how I’m going to get her there.”

Another wrote: “Many people who move here are retired, have been driving for over 40 years. It is unfair to make them take a test. If it puts people off moving to Spain then Spain is losing thousands of euros every year that the people would spend here all from UK pensions,” wrote one Brit beneath the ambassador’s statement.

However, the issue has divided expat forums with some pointing out that those who failed to swap their driving licences had plenty of time and ample warnings to do so and only have themselves to blame.

“I know Brits like to moan about anything, but please, no more talk of license exchange. It’s your fault . We have all had ample time to adhere to the rules. Don’t blame others. Take it on the chin. Don’t blame the Spanish, blame yourself. Simple.” wrote one belligerent expat from the Costa del Sol.

One expat summed it up: “There is a massive ‘black hole’ in what has happened since Brexit. Thousands of people paid out good money to Spanish legal advisors to assist them with this. Only to find those so called Spanish ‘legal experts’ didn’t understand themselves what the Spanish governments directive was. Now those who fell into that ‘black hole’ are left unable to drive, whilst a fresh faced tourist who passed their test a week before their holiday are deemed safe. 

“Add to that, the smug (and frankly unnecessary) attitude and comments of those fortunate enough to have gained the right advice on threads like this, and it is an unnecessary nightmare that bureaucrats from both countries could easily have solved months ago!”

Share your view on the matter by sending an email to newsdesk@theolivepress.es

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Negotiators Are ‘within Touching Distance Of Historic Treaty’ Over Gibraltar's Post-Brexit Future, Insists Chief Minister Fabian Picardo – Olive Press News Spain

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AFTER months of negotiations concerning the future of Gibraltar post-Brexit, an end is now in sight, according to Chief Minister Fabian Picardo.

In an address to parliament on Monday, Picardo insisted Gibraltar was ‘within touching distance of a new treaty’ with the EU.

Negotiations for a UK/EU agreement on Gibraltar’s post-Brexit relations have so far seen eight rounds of talks since October 2021as huge teams on both sides battled for a solution to the frontier issue.

The most substantial part of the negotiations concern the movement of people and goods to and from Spain, which is a member of Schengen. 

In his update to the House, Picardo sounded upbeat whilst stressing that at least two more rounds of negotiations would be needed, with the first round likely to be in June. 

“We are, in effect, touching every single aspect of the basic building blocks of the European Union and considering whether and if so how each of those should apply to Gibraltar going forward,” he said.

“That will bring an end, forever, of frontier queues and checks as we know them today.”

Here is the full text of my statement to Parliament today on the ongoing UK/EU treaty negotiations. I ended with a statement of our new political reality and our key objectives. I believe we can finalise this negotiation with a safe, secure and beneficial treaty for our people. https://t.co/xKPJULWjdn pic.twitter.com/V0IOnbif9J

— Fabian Picardo (@FabianPicardo) May 16, 2022

The news will be welcomed by Gibraltarians and Brits for whom the act of strolling across the border and being casually waved through, has become a distant memory. 

There have been increasing reports of border issues over the past month, with Spanish police carrying out strict Schengen rule checks for those crossing with British passports.

Picardo insisted that Gibraltar’s sovereignty was a red line for negotiations: “As I have said in every statement I have made on this matter in this House, nothing will ever cleave Gibraltar from the United Kingdom. Nothing will ever rip us from Britain,” he insisted. 

He also alluded to the fact that the negotiations were unchartered territory: “By seeking mobility of goods and persons we are seeking, in effect, to carve a niche for ourselves in the infrastructure of the EU which cannot in any way threaten the integrity of the single market or the security of the Schengen area.”

He concluded: “We are within touching distance of a historic treaty… between the UK and the EU… that, if we can get there, will create renewed optimism in the European idea itself.”

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Boris Johnson Se Compromete A Preservar Lo Pactado Para Irlanda Del Norte En El Brexit Pero Pide Cambios A La UE

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Boris Johnson se definió una vez a sí mismo como un carro de la compra: por mucho que lo empujes en una dirección, acaba oscilando hacia ambos lados. Era un modo de admitir su escasa capacidad de concentrarse hasta el final en un objetivo. Por eso, su estrategia para Irlanda del Norte ha sido acogida con escepticismo por aliados —los unionistas— y por rivales —la Unión Europea—. El primer ministro ha viajado este lunes a Belfast para reunirse con protestantes y católicos, e intentar colaborar en la resolución de una crisis que amenaza nuevamente con bloquear sine die las instituciones autonómicas de la región.

El Partido Unionista Democrático, al que los republicanos del Sinn Féin han arrebatado la primera posición en la Asamblea de Stormont (el parlamento autónomo norirlandés) en unas elecciones históricas, está empeñado en bloquear la formación de Gobierno hasta que Londres no se deshaga del Protocolo de Irlanda, el documento anejo al Acuerdo de Retirada de la UE que Johnson firmó para sacar adelante su deseado Brexit. El Acuerdo de Viernes Santo de 1998, que llevó la paz a este territorio, impone un reparto de poder entre protestantes y católicos para que las instituciones autonómicas funcionen. Si los unionistas no colaboran, el resultado es la parálisis.

Johnson ha llevado debajo del brazo compromisos y buenas palabras para contentar a todos los partidos políticos, con los que iba a reunirse, además de suavizar —que no retirar— sus amenazas hacia la UE. Aun así, ha habido actos de protesta en todo el territorio, con carteles en los que podía leerse “No te acerques, Johnson” o “Protejamos el Protocolo”.

Su visita iba precedida de un extenso artículo en el Belfast Telegraph, que los portavoces de Downing Street atribuyen exclusivamente al puño y letra del primer ministro, escrito sin ayuda de asesores. “Siempre mantendremos abierta la puerta a un diálogo sincero. Y continuaremos protegiendo el mercado interior [de la UE], como ha sido protegido desde que existe el Protocolo de Irlanda. Del mismo modo que protegeremos la frontera abierta con la República de Irlanda, algo que ha sido siempre de suma importancia”, ha escrito Johnson.

Esa era la zanahoria. El palo llegaba dos párrafos después. “Confío en que cambie la posición de la UE. Si no, será necesario actuar. El Gobierno tiene la responsabilidad de asegurar a consumidores, ciudadanos y empresas de Irlanda del Norte que serán protegidos en el largo plazo. En los próximos días, ofreceremos al Parlamento más detalles de cuáles serán los pasos siguientes, cuando regrese [a Londres] al término de mis discusiones con los partidos locales”, advertía Johnson.

Este mismo martes, la ministra británica de Exteriores, Liz Truss, podría presentar ante la Cámara de los Comunes las líneas maestras de una ley que revocaría unilateralmente partes sustanciales del Protocolo de Irlanda. El propósito de este tratado fue, en su día, evitar una nueva frontera en la isla de Irlanda. El acuerdo de paz diluyó, hasta hacer invisible, la demarcación territorial que separaba la República de Irlanda (miembro de la UE) del territorio británico. Cualquier señal de una nueva división, aunque su propósito fuera el mero control aduanero, para proteger el Mercado Interior de la Unión Europea, podía reavivar tensiones y violencia sectaria. Se optó a cambio por que Irlanda del Norte siguiera dentro del espacio aduanero y comercial de la UE, y que los controles aduaneros y sanitarios se desplazaran —simbólicamente; en la práctica debían llevarse a cabo en instalaciones portuarias interiores— al mar de Irlanda.

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En una región que ha avanzado notablemente económica y políticamente, todavía perviven los recelos mutuos entre sus dos principales comunidades. Lo que beneficia a una, despierta los temores de la otra. Y los unionistas comenzaron a sospechar, justa o injustamente, que el Protocolo les alejaba aún más del Reino Unido y se convertía en la enésima puñalada en la espalda de Londres. Resultado: episodios de violencia sectaria en las calles y, de nuevo, parálisis en las instituciones. “No podemos ocultar el hecho de que el delicado equilibrio que pudo crearse en 1998 ha sido alterado. Una parte de la comunidad política de Irlanda del Norte siente que sus aspiraciones y su identidad han sido amenazadas con la puesta en práctica del protocolo”, ha escrito Johnson.

El líder del DUP, Jeffrey Donaldson, ha dejado claro al primer ministro británico que no le bastaban palabras y necesitaba hechos. No volverán a las instituciones autonómicas hasta que la nueva legislación que promete el Gobierno, para revocar partes del protocolo, sea aprobada.

La UE, en alerta

El anuncio que llevará a cabo la ministra Truss en el Parlamento será muy vago, anticipan fuentes gubernamentales británicas. Apenas será el comienzo de un largo trámite legislativo —podría tardar hasta un año— que sufrirá muchas enmiendas durante el trayecto. Por eso, la interpretación general coincide en ver la estrategia más como un arma de presión negociadora que como un hecho consumado. En medio de la crisis actual, con la guerra de Ucrania, la inflación galopante y una economía renqueante, lo último que desea Johnson es una guerra comercial con la UE.

El ministro de Exteriores de la República de Irlanda, Simon Coveney, ha pedido templanza. Es el miembro de la UE que más directamente sufriría una nueva crisis entre Bruselas y Londres. “Es el momento de la calma, el diálogo y el compromiso entre dos socios como el Reino Unido y la UE, para solucionar todos estos asuntos tan importantes”, ha dicho Coveney este lunes. El ministro quería recalcar el importante matiz de que la ley con la que Londres amenaza con desvirtuar el Protocolo ni siquiera había echado a andar. “La alternativa [al diálogo] es llevar a cabo medidas unilaterales que generen tensión, rencor, enfrentamientos, acciones legales, y que, por supuesto, pondrían en cuestión la aplicación del Tratado de Comercio y Cooperación, porque este tratado y el Acuerdo de Retirada están interconectados, y el uno depende del otro”, explicaba Coveney. Un modo relativamente sutil de dejar claro a Johnson que la guerra comercial era posible.

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'Steadfast': Gibraltar Chief Minister Meets Liz Truss To Discuss Post-Brexit Issues At Border With Spain – Olive Press News Spain

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CHIEF Minister of Gibraltar Fabian Picardo has met with UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss to discuss the ongoing issues at the border with Spain as well as treaty negotiations. 

Also present at the meeting were Gibraltar’s Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia and UK Europe Minister James Cleverly. 

The meeting was held at the end of a two-day session of talks for a UK-EU treaty on the Rock’s relationship with the EU, which Picardo says he remains very optimistic can be achieved.

The UK government agreed to hold a formal meeting of the Joint Ministerial Council, a committee which looks at issues relating to relationships with devolved administrations, on the Gibraltar border issue in the coming weeks.

Picardo said in an interview with GBC News that there is a “keen interest” in the border issue from Truss and Cleverly. This is despite the fact that only around a fortnight ago Cleverly appeared unaware of any issues at a hearing of the European Scrutiny Committee.

Liz Truss wrote online after the meeting that the UK is “steadfast” in its approach to its overseas territory and will “always protect the sovereignty of Gibraltar”. The Foreign Secretary added that “we’re working together to ensure free flow of people and goods into Gibraltar.”

Met Gibraltar’s Chief Minister @FabianPicardo ??

? UK is steadfast in our support for Gibraltar

? We’re working together to ensure free flow of people and goods into Gibraltar

? We will always protect the sovereignty of Gibraltar pic.twitter.com/Im60HDJWPD

— Liz Truss (@trussliz) May 11, 2022

Despite it always having been insisted that they are very different issues, there is now concern that if relations between the UK and EU break down over the Northern Ireland protocol, this could have a knock-on effect on progress on the Gibraltar treaty.

Picardo told GBC News that the negotiators have always dealt with outside international politics during the treaty talks and so with rising tensions surrounding Northern Ireland must continue to insist Gibraltar is a separate issue. 

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