Brexit: 15,000 drivers with UK licences face being put off the road

Road Safety Authority warns drivers permits must be exchanged by end of the year

If you are resident in Ireland and using a UK licence to drive it will no longer be valid to drive in Ireland after December 31st. Photograph: Getty Images

If you are resident in Ireland and using a UK licence to drive it will no longer be valid to drive in Ireland after December 31st. Photograph: Getty Images

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About 15,000 motorists living in the Republic and still using a UK driving licence face being put off the road within weeks as the Brexit transition deadline looms.

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) is warning drivers that time is running out to exchange licences before December 31st, with waiting times for processing applications of up to 20 days or more.

Last year, Insurance Ireland – which represents insurers – estimated that there were up to 70,000 people who held a UK driving licence in Ireland.

Almost 50,000 applications were made to the National Driver Licence Service (NDLS) during 2019 to swap out licences issued in the North or in Britain, which were previously valid for residents living in the EU.

A further 5,300 applications were made to date this year.

The RSA, which runs the NDLS, said its “best estimate” was that in the region of 15,000 motorists living in the Republic but driving on a UK licence have yet to apply for an exchange.

“They must exchange their driving licence,” a RSA spokesman said.

“While the UK has left the EU, a transition period was agreed that allowed for the exchange of driving licences to continue.

“That transition period ends on the 31st of December 2020. If you are resident in Ireland and using a UK licence to drive it will no longer be valid to drive in Ireland after this date.”

It is taking on average between 10 and 12 working days for exchange applications to be processed “with 95 per cent processed within 20 working days”, according to the RSA.

But the authority is warning of potential further delays “caused by a last-minute increase in applications” on top of the existing pressures caused by the pandemic.

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.

The exchange requirement applies only to residents in the Republic. Visitors who hold a driving licence issued in the North or Britain will continue to be entitled to drive as normal, the RSA said.

Extensions

Meanwhile, Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan has ruled out further extending driver licences issued in the Republic which are due to expire soon, despite a backlog for appointments at NDLS centres.

“It is not my intention at this time to further extend the validity of driving licences,” he said, in response to a parliamentary question.

“The existing extension of seven months for licences that expired between March and August will ease the pressure on the NDLS, free up appointment slots and make it easier to find those slots at local centres.”

Mr Ryan said the RSA was working to increase capacity at NDLS centres while adhering to the return-to-work protocol.

“Options under consideration include extended opening hours, overtime and protective segregation barriers between booths,” he said.

“Work is also continuing to expand the online facility to accommodate all driving licence and learner permit application types in a manner that does not undermine the existing legal framework or the effective operations of the stakeholders involved.”