Up to 40,000 motorists in Ireland who are still driving with a UK licence are being warned they have just weeks to exchange it or face being put off the road in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Latest figures from the National Driver Licence Service (NDLS) show an almost five-fold rise in the number of UK driving licence holders switching to an Irish licence to date this year compared to previous years.
Over the past five years less than 6,000 drivers on average swap out their UK licence for an Irish one every year. However, to date this year, more than 27,000 have been exchanged.
Insurance Ireland – which represents insurers – estimated earlier this year that there were between 50,000 and 70,000 UK driving licence holders in Ireland.
The Road Safety Authority (RSA), which operates the NDLS, said it believes that between 30,000 and 40,000 of these have yet to switch over to an Irish licence. Those who do not do so in the coming weeks face a driving ban if Britain crashes out of the EU on October 31st without a deal, according to the RSA.
“There is an opportunity now to exchange your licence in good time and be certain you have a valid driving licence when the UK leaves the EU,” an RSA spokeswoman said.
“If you wait until close to the UK exit date of October 31st you may face lengthy delays in exchanging a UK licence, and the NDLS cannot guarantee when you will have a valid licence to drive here in Ireland. For this reason those living in Ireland who hold a UK driving licence are strongly urged to act now and exchange their licence.”
The RSA said there were currently no delays in the processing of exchange applications, but that there were backlogs in March and April, around the date of the original deadline for Britain to leave the EU.
Nearly 700 exchange applications were being made every day at the time.
There are plans for extra staff at NDLS centres in October, but this may still “not be able to cater for demand if applicants leave it until the last minute”, the RSA spokeswoman said .
To exchange a licence drivers must complete an application form and present it along with a €55 fee and their UK licence at any of the 36 NDLS centres around the country.
Appointments can be made online at ndls.ie but there is also a walk-in service available at all centres.