French and UK authorities have reached agreement on the recognition of British driving licences in France, removing a major source of post-Brexit concern for thousands of UK nationals who feared being left without a valid licence.
Paris announced late last year that although short-term visitors could continue to use British licences after the Brexit transition period, residents would need to apply to exchange theirs for a French one before 31 December 2021, or take a French test.
However, people applying since January have had their requests systematically rejected by the new French licensing website, ANTS (Agence nationale des titres sécurisés), on the grounds that there was as yet no reciprocal licence agreement between the UK and France.
The problem was compounded by administrative overloads at the centres in Nantes and Paris that processed previous paper licence exchanges, but became swamped by more than 100,000 applications during 2018 as a possible no-deal Brexit loomed.
Hundreds of Britons, many living in rural areas of France with little public transport and relying on their car for work, were left with licences that were either due to expire within months or already had, yet unable to start the process of exchanging them.
Driving in France without a valid licence can result in a fine of up to €15,000 (£12,879), while taking the French driving test instead of swapping licences entails mandatory lessons and a theory exam at a total cost of about €1,800.
The British embassy in Paris announced on Thursday evening that an agreement had been reached between the two governments under which France would recognise UK driving licences issued before 1 January 2021 for as long as they were valid.
British licences that have expired are are about to expire will be eligible for exchange under a new system expected to go live within the next few weeks, with an official “certificate of exchange” serving as a French licence until the new one arrives.
UK driving licences issued after 1 January 2021 would continue to be valid for up to a year from the date of issue of the resident’s new post-Brexit residence permit, the statement said.