Brexit: Holders of UK licences face time off road while awaiting new Irish permits
500 applications per day being made for Irish permits, RSA confirms
The National Driver Licence Service said it was illegal for UK licence holders to drive until they get their Irish permits. Photograph: iStock
Holders of UK driving licences who have applied to swap them for Irish permits due to Brexit have been told they must stay off the road possibly for weeks while awaiting new licences.
There are thousands of UK licence holders in Ireland, who have been advised to change their licences as they will be invalid in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Fianna Fáil transport spokesman Robert Troy said the Road Safety Authority (RSA) confirmed to him a demand of up to 500 applications per day was being seen.
Amid backlogs caused by a rush of applications for licence exchange, drivers are being told by the National Driver Licence Service (NDLS) that it is illegal for them to drive until they get their new permits.
In correspondence to an affected driver seen by The Irish Times, a senior NDLS official states: “We would advise that you should not drive while the exchange application is in processing and should wait until you have your Irish driver’s licence physically in your possession.”
When holders of a UK licence exchange their permit for its Irish equivalent, they surrender the British version at the driving test centre. They are given a receipt for the new licence, but according to correspondence seen by this newspaper, this is not sufficient to allow them to drive.
“It is a legal requirement that when driving in Ireland, the driver must be in possession of a valid driving licence for the class of vehicle driven. A receipt issued by an NDLS Centre states the applicant has applied for a licence but does not grant the bearer permission to drive,” an official told an applicant.
Emails sent to applicants also show that the turnaround time for licence exchanges slowed down as the system came under pressure. “Please be advised that due to an increase in volume of foreign licence exchanges, an application to exchange a UK licence can take up to 30 working days,” one email from March 12th reads.
Those caught up in the process have expressed dismay at being told they could be off the road for more than a month, with fears that public holidays around Easter could further slow down processing times. The NDLS has already been forced to open some centres for additional opening hours, and give priority to UK exchange licences.
“If I can’t drive to work, it would add an hour to my commute each day as the public transport route isn’t great,” said one person who is exchanging their licence. The person, who has returned to live in the State after spending some years in the UK, said any delay would also have a significant effect on their personal life. “One of the big advantages of living at home again is being able to see family more often.”
“They seriously need to come up with some sort of ‘grandfathering’ rule to at least cover us while we wait,” the person said
The Road Safety Authority confirmed in response to a parliamentary question from Mr Troy last week that the National Driver Licence System has seen an increase in applications to exchange driving licences from the UK and that daily demand was now at 500 applications per day.
“In the event that the United Kingdom leaves the European Union without an agreement in place, the driving license of a UK licence holder living here in Ireland will not be recognised and the driver will not be able to continue to drive in Ireland on that licence,” said chief executive Moyagh Murdock.
In recent times the average processing time for a UK licence exchange has been 17 days, but following an increase in resources from the RSA, waiting times were down to 7.5 days as of March 12th, Ms Murdock added, in her letter dated March 13th.
Separately, former minister for finance Michael Noonan has said he is confident Irish exporters will be “able to cope” under a no-deal Brexit.
He was speaking in his native Limerick where he officially cut the ribbon on the €17.6 million Gardens International development.
Mr Noonan said uncertainty was “bad for business, bad for investment, and bad for trade”.
However, he believed exporters could “ride out” a no-deal, adding that Ireland should not be too concerned about Brexit.
“It’s disappointing, but that being said, Irish industry is very resilient – the export side is very resilient. And, something that has never been discussed is the fact that, when the [Brexit] referendum took place, the pound sterling was trading at around 72 cents.
“It was [trading at] 86 this morning, and it went to 90 two weeks ago. That’s a devaluation of over 30 per cent in sterling, and Irish exports went up to the UK.”