The problems that British drivers can no longer drive in France because they currently have no option to exchange a British driver’s license for a French one are cause for legal action, says a French lawyer.
According to Julien Fouchet, the situation violates the rules on equal treatment for Britons under the Brexit withdrawal agreement.
He said if Brits have evidence that they are refusing to exchange their UK license this year, he would be ready to bring a pro bono case to the French courts on their behalf. Evidence could potentially include a rejection email generated by an attempt to exchange on the ants.gouv.fr website, or a screenshot of such a rejection on the website.
He also hopes that such a case could support a case that is due to be tried in the European Court of Justice (ECJ) later this year in order to regain Union citizenship rights for Britons that will have negative consequences from Brexit. If he wins the latter, Mr Fouchet believes that it could effectively mean that the parties’ UK licenses are expired again and are interchangeable in the EU, as was the case before.
In our related survey in yesterday’s newsletter, 69 readers said that they are now unable to legally drive in France because their British license has expired and they cannot exchange for a French license. An expired UK license cannot be renewed even if it is based in France.
Another 166 readers said they were concerned about driving with British driving licenses whose French states will no longer be valid after the end of the year. Another 26 readers who moved to France this year fear their UK license will expire 12 months after their move date due to current French regulations.
The United Kingdom has agreements on driving licenses with all EU countries except France, Italy and Spain, which allow the exchange of the national driving licenses of the countries. In some cases, Brits who are already driving in the EU with a UK driving license can do so until the license expires.
The problem started from January 1, 2021 as France normally does not allow third country licenses to be used for more than a year after arriving in France and France usually only exchanges licenses issued by third countries with which it has a special agreement about driving has license exchange. This is not yet the case in the UK.
The UK has continued its pre-Brexit position to allow EU citizens in the UK to either exchange their license for a UK license or continue to use it if that is valid / until the driver turns 70.
The Franco-British talks on a mutual agreement on future rules are known to have started in mid-March, but there is still no news of what progress is being made.
Mr Fouchet from Cornille-Fouchet-Manetti-Avocaten in Bordeaux and Paris said: “I think this has to do with the ongoing problems with the fisheries and Northern Ireland. it is harmful. The French Minister for European Affairs has stated that the UK is not complying with the readmission agreement. I think the talks are progressing slowly because diplomatic relations are bad.
“I would be surprised if the delay was for technical reasons, there is nothing particularly complicated about it.”
Describing the situation for those affected, who are unable to drive, Mr Fouchet added: “I believe France is in breach of Article 12 of the readmission agreement on the non-discrimination of British nationals.
“It is similar to Article 18 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, which deals with discrimination based on nationality.”
Mr Fouchet is hoping an agreement will be reached before the end of the year, but in the meantime stands ready to take a case for free if a British person is interested (let us know via [email protected] and we will forward emails ). . He believes the French court would likely refer a question to the ECJ.
Sir Roger Gale, MP, who had discussed the matter with UK Transport Ministers, forwarded a reply from Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to The Connexion in which Mr Shapps stated that the (UK) Government “has an obligation to make mutual agreements with France that facilitate private driving with a minimum of bureaucracy ”and“ work with the French government to finalize the long-term agreements ”. He added that tentative rules for using valid UK licenses in France have been agreed by the end of the year (or 12 months for newcomers).
The UK Government is aware that this is causing difficulties for a number of UK nationals resident in France whose licenses have expired and that the Government is working closely with the French to find a solution.
Sir Roger said he would keep working on the subject.
A spokesman for the UK Embassy said: “We know firsthand that this is of great concern to our nationals and we remain in regular contact with French ministries on the matter. We want to be clear, and as soon as we get some, we will share that information. “
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