The UK is set to leave the European Union this month.  At this stage, there is no exit deal agreed which means that, unless this changes, the UK will leave the EU without a deal.  The implications of this are that the UK’s exit will be disorderly and none of the existing arrangements and agreements in place between the EU and the UK will apply.

In the event of a no-deal Brexit, there may be implications for EU and EEA nationals working as taxi and private hire drivers in the UK.

EU driving licences in the UK

At the moment, if you have an EU (or EEA) driving licence, you can rely on this licence to apply for a taxi or private hire licence.  This is because with an EU or EEA driving licence you can drive in Great Britain until you’re 70, or for three years after becoming a resident here, whichever is longer. After that, you need an exchange licence.

If your driving licence was issued in what is known as a “designated country”, such as Switzerland, you can exchange it for a UK licence provided you do so within five years of becoming a resident. Otherwise, you will need to take a driving test (both practical and theory).

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, it is likely that the rules will change.  The UK government will be responsible for deciding whether to accept EU and EEA driving licences after a no-deal Brexit. 

The Government’s advice is unclear at the moment but it is anticipated that, even with a no deal Brexit scenario, the UK Government will treat all EU member states as “designated countries” which means that you will be able to exchange your EU licence for a UK licence.  To this extent, it may be possible for EU and EEA nationals to continue to work as taxi and private hire drivers after Brexit. 

However, this is only speculation at this stage and official Government advice may change as we get closer to the 29th of March.

EU national’s immigration status

If you are a citizen of an EU, EEA or Switzerland without any UK residency permit or indefinite leave to remain’ status, you will need to apply by 30 June 2021 to continue living in the UK under the UK’s EU Settlement Scheme.

It is not clear if, for example, EU nationals will lose their entitlement to a taxi or private hire licence if they do not apply under the EU Settlement Scheme.  Under normal circumstances, the Immigration Act will automatically disqualify taxi or private hire licence holders from holding such a licence by virtue of their (non)right to work and live in the UK lawfully.  We await further advice from the Government on this too.

All of this is based on the UK leaving without a deal.  Should there be a delay to Brexit or a deal agreed, an automatic two year transition period will apply during which time nothing will change.  It remains to be seen what happens on the 29th of March but it is important that EU and EEA taxi and private hire drivers understand the implications of Brexit either way.

Stephen McCaffrey

Regulatory defence barrister specialising in taxi and private hire licensing law, appeals and defence.

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