“Our transport network will be fairer, greener and more efficient thanks to our exciting new post-EU freedoms. We will introduce digital licences…” – wrote Grant Shapps on his Twitter.
“Cool”, I thought to myself, “finally some benefit of Brexit!”
But is it?
I had heard about digital licences somewhere before. Where was that? Ah, I know. In Poland. In December 2020. Except it was not about plans to introduce digital licences. It was about them being actually introduced – the 5 December last year was the day where the system went online. Now everyone in Poland can store their driving licence (along with the car registration papers and proof of insurance) in their smartphone. You can find info in Polish here. From what I am told Spain, Portugal and Denmark already have something like that, too.
But surely it can’t be? Would that mean that Britain is no longer ahead of the world, setting the trail for others to follow? Could it be that Grant Shapps wanted to brag about something without checking if that would not make him actually look ridiculous?
Well, this would not be the first time. After all, if I learned something from living in the UK for over 15 years now, it is that people in this country rarely have any interests about what is going on in Europe, which could be an explanation why they still believe that Britain is the best and a world leader in many fields. So if Grant Shapps wanted to show off how modern his country could be thanks to Brexit, he failed miserably.
But hey, wait! There is one more level to it. Denmark, Poland, Portugal, Spain… All those countries are members of the EU and yet they were able to bring digital driving licences to their citizens. Surely, that would mean that one does need to leave the European Union to become a modern country, or at least more modern than Britain (which is, sorry my British friends, hardly an achievement). So was Grant Shapps unaware that you can create a system of digital driving licences without leaving the EU, or is he just so desperate to show some Brexit benefits, that he is making some utter b*ll*cks up?
I don’t know about him personally, but he is a minister of transport. Someone should tell him that Britain has already worked on such project. To stay in the realms of twitter, then-DVLA boss Oliver Morley tweeted a photo of a prototype of a British digital licence on 13 May 2016. That’s over a month before Brexit referendum took place, which means that the work on that project had to be well ahead before even anyone believed that Brexit can actually happen. According to BBC, the system was supposed to be up and running in 2018.
So the real question to Mr Grant Shapps, a minister of Transport in a Tory government would be: since Tories remain in power for about a decade now, how is it that he is bragging about the project that in fact is already delayed by at least three years?