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road wars Up to 13,000 UK driving licence holders face being put off the road as Brexit deadline draws near

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As many as 13,000 people driving in Ireland on a UK driving licence have yet to swap to an Irish licence.

As many as 13,000 people driving in Ireland on a UK driving licence have yet to swap to an Irish licence.

As many as 13,000 people driving in Ireland on a UK driving licence have yet to swap to an Irish licence.

Up to 13,000 UK driving licence holders face being put off the road on January 1 as they have yet to apply to exchange their document for an Irish licence.

Driver licence centres across the country are experiencing a surge in last-minute applications from thousands of UK licence holders.

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) is urging anyone who needs to swap a UK licence for an Irish licence to do so as soon as possible as the Brexit transition deadline of December 31 looms.

RSA spokesperson Brian Farrell told the Irish Independent there have been almost 57,000 UK licence exchanges so far.

However, Insurance Ireland estimates there are 70,000 British licence holders in Ireland, meaning up to 13,000 may still have to apply.

Mr Farrell warned that while standard licence applications usually take between five and eight days, foreign exchanges can take longer as checks must be carried out with the driver’s original licensing authority.

In some cases it may take up to 20 days to receive a new licence.

“We started to raise awareness about this 18 months ago ahead of the first Brexit deadline and received around 49,000 applications last year. This year we’re up to nearly 57,000,” he said.

“We liaised with the insurance industry about how many UK licence holders there are and it’s estimated to be nearly 70,000. December 31 is the absolute deadline this time and this is the last call to get your licence exchanged.”

Mr Farrell said there has been a surge in late applications, but not at the same level as last year.

The RSA controls the 36 National Driver Licence Service (NDLS) centres operating across Ireland.

“There is extra capacity being created in the NDLS centres so people shouldn’t have a difficulty getting appointments,” Mr Farrell said.

Callers to the NDLS who have selected the UK licence exchange option have reported waiting times of up to an hour.

Mr Farrell said the fact foreign licence exchanges take a bit longer may be leading to increased calls, and also people may not be as comfortable visiting centres during the pandemic.

Anyone using a UK licence to drive in the Republic will no longer be able to do so after December 31.

This does not apply to those who are living in Northern Ireland.

Meanwhile, learner drivers hoping to sit their driving test are looking at a 30-week waiting time if they apply now.

Fianna Fáil senator Malcom Byrne raised the issue in the Seanad, saying: “It will be quicker to get the Covid vaccine than a driving test in 2021.”

The RSA is calling for extra funding to bring in more testing staff to deal with the backlog.

Mr Byrne said the issue is causing “major problems” for young drivers in particular.

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