National governments – who have been divided over the proposals – have approved creating a model licence, which will help prevent forgeries, regarded as a problem across Europe.
Britain abstained over the vote because the directive insists that licences are issued for a maximum of 15 years, while in the UK they currently last until a driver reaches retirement age.
However, with no other member state backing Britain’s stance, it looks unlikely that the UK’s long-term licences will survive.
The proposed directive will be debated for a second time by the European Parliament, which has the authority to pass further amendments.
The legislation aims to improve the free movement of citizens by ensuring mutual recognition of licences by the member states.