Throughout the summer, the Plates4Less team (a division of VRM Swansea) has reported a growing concern regarding the legality of the GB/EU flag featured on the number plates of British-registered vehicles, going to the continent.
The once-popular GB/EU Number Plate flag is no longer available to purchase in the UK, raising uncertainty about the qualifications required for driving in Europe when displaying these plates. In fact, individuals who still use these plates must fit an additional identifier to ensure compliance.
According to Antony Clark from Plates4Less, it’s not necessary to change your number plate, just to get rid of the GB/EU flag, if your vehicle is remaining in the UK. “With people going on holiday and realising that the old GB/EU plate no longer qualifies them to drive abroad, we’ve seen a rise in existing customers asking us if it’s still legal to use their number plates in the UK or worrying that they might fail their MoT,”
“While we are no longer allowed to supply new number plates with the GB/EU flag, it is still perfectly legal to drive with these number plates in the UK.” explained the number plate expert.
There are strict rules and regulations for UK number plates to ensure that they are road legal: the font, spacing, and material of your number plates all contribute to their legality. People are right to be concerned about the legality of their plates, since an illegal number plate can lead to fines up to £1000 and you could fail your MoT.
In the UK, you can still order legal number plates with a flag decoration on the left-hand side. A flag can be displayed on a small rectangle, which can alternately be used to display a green flash on low-emission vehicles. The flags currently allowed are: the Union Jack, the Cross of Saint George, the Cross of Saint Andrew, and the Red Dragon of Wales.
“The UK number plate flag now works like the EU flag used to – it removes the need for an additional black and white UK sticker unless you are driving to Spain, Cyprus or Malta. Despite this, people are much less interested in getting a UK flag.” Antony explained. “Before Brexit, 21% of our customers ordered an EU flag. However, in 2023, only 5% of customers ordered the UK flag. It seems that some people preferred the EU flag, not just because it made it easier to drive outside of the UK, but because they liked the design of it.”
Antony also explained that it has become commonplace for owners of private number plates to opt for flags to show their political allegiances, even if they have no plans to drive abroad. “Some clients proudly and consciously opt for the newer UK flag, but others request the old EU plates to show their love for the EU”. Antony continues, “We’ve got to tell them that we can’t legally supply those any longer for use on the roads.”
So, what’s now required to be able to drive abroad? It’s dependent on the country you’re travelling to! It’s likely you will require either a UK sticker or a new set of plates with a UK flag, or in some countries, both. There are also other elements to consider, for example, in certain areas it’s compulsory to keep a warning triangle in your car.
Plates4Less recommends motorists always check the individual requirements of the place they are travelling to.