I thank the Deputy for asking this topical question, which is a hot issue in the light of Brexit.
Motorists resident in Ireland with a UK, including Northern Ireland, driver licence are being advised to exchange that licence for an Irish driver licence before 31 October 2019. In the event of a no-deal Brexit, the UK will no longer be a member state and, therefore, the UK driver licence will not be recognised. People resident in Ireland will no longer be able to drive on a UK driver licence. Contingency planning for a no-deal Brexit has been considered by Cabinet on many occasions since 2016 and the matter of UK driver licences was included in the issues under consideration. The Road Safety Authority, RSA, has run a number of media campaigns this year including a radio campaign, which commenced on 23 September 2019, to encourage those living in Ireland and holding UK driver licences to exchange them in good time before 31 October 2019. The RSA is also running an ongoing social media campaign.
At the start of this process, as the Deputy noted, it was estimated some 70,000 UK licences were held by people resident in Ireland. Some 34,000 of these have been exchanged to date. The RSA will increase its opening hours at the National Driver Licence Service, NDLS, centres, commencing on 7 October 2019, as will be advertised on ndls.ie. Additional resources are also in place at the application processing centre to cater for the expected increased demand. At present, the average waiting time for the exchange of a UK driver licence for an Irish driver licence is three days.
Once the UK leaves the EU, the exchange of driver licences will become a national competency rather than an EU competency. My officials have examined the technical issues that will arise in such a scenario and will seek to put in place alternative arrangements for the exchange of licences, including in the case of returning emigrants currently holding a UK licence. This cannot be completed, however, until after the UK has left the EU. Therefore, I urge any persons who are resident in Ireland and who hold a UK licence to exchange it for an Irish licence and to do so without further delay.
There seems to be a certain dilatoriness and a rather large gap has opened up, given that 70,000 people should take such action whereas more than 30,000 have yet to do so. I regard that as rather disturbing but I hope that in the next few weeks it will be remedied.