Irish licence holders are being reassured that they can drive on UK roads even if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.
Their UK counterparts – UK licence holders in Ireland – are being told they must trade them in for the Irish equivalent since they will become defunct if Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement is not ratified by MPs.
Ireland’s National Driver Licence Service and Road Service Authority have warned drivers with UK licences in Ireland that they must begin making arrangements to exchange their documents before the Brexit deadline of March 29th.
However, for Irish – and other European – licence holders, the UK government has indicated it will business as usual on British roads.
“In the event of a no-deal Brexit, the driving licence of a UK licence holder living here in Ireland will not be recognised and the driver will not be able to continue to drive here in Ireland on that licence,” the NDLS said in a statement.
“The advice to such drivers is that they should exchange their UK driving licence for an Irish driving licence before March 29th, 2019.”
Under current arrangements, UK licence holders have the ability to exchange and preserve all the different categories and permissions conferred by their existing permit.
There are some limited exceptions to what are known as national licence categories, the NDLS said. These cannot be transferred to an Irish licence.
The NDLS said it has no estimate of how many people resident in the State were driving on UK licences.
However, since UK licences only expire when the driver turns 70, many UK licences holders have been driving in Ireland for years without any problems.
They will now be forced into exchanging their licences, incurring various expenses in line with current RSA rules.
Maggie Curley, an Irish citizen who left the UK for Ireland 20 years ago after a period of living there, told the Irish World she feels “hard done by” by the announcement.
Ms Curley held a UK driving licence in Ireland since her return and it wasn’t set to expire for close to twenty years.
“Now I have to renew and pay for it every 10 years, get doctor’s letters, eyes tested; more [unforeseen] expenses,” she said.
Ms Curley also said that she received penalty points but, since she had a UK licence, they were not added to her record. It remains unclear if when she does exchange her licence, these points will then reappear.
British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement provides for arrangements to recognise UK driving licences across the EU during the transition period which is until December 2020.
It is expected that negotiations on the future relationship, which will take place during the transition period, will seek to put a permanent arrangement in place.
A DfT spokesperson reiterated that the UK will continue to recognise all EU and EEA member state licences after Brexit, even in a no-deal scenario.
“We recommend that UK licence holders who are living in Ireland exchange their licence before 29th March, to avoid needing to re-take their driving test,” they said.
A spokesman for the RSA said the time it takes to swap a UK licence for its Irish equivalent is about 10 days, but that this “may change if there is a high level” of uptake on exchanges.
“There is a possibility in such a scenario that Ireland and the UK will enter into a bi-lateral arrangement on driving licences where Ireland recognise UK driving licences,” the RSA added. “Inevitably, this will take a little time to complete as it involves a formal agreement and legislation here in Ireland.”
Last month, the Irish World reported how Irish motorists driving in the UK, including Northern Ireland, would have to arrange “green cards” if Britain crashed out of the EU without a deal. The green card would be required to prove that motorists were insured.
As many as 400,000 of the cards were sent by the Motor Insurance Bureau of Ireland to insurance companies and brokers in January.
Motorists will have to apply for the documentation a month in advance of their planned departure date to ensure they can drive while in the UK.
Currently, motor vehicles with a valid Irish registration are covered by the EU’s motor insurance directive, which allows free movement around the bloc without the need for extra documentation.
However, under a no-deal Brexit, the UK will fall out of the directive, and drivers who don’t display the card could be treated as uninsured and face penalties.