During the summer season, Plates4Less, part of VRM Swansea, noticed a surge in inquiries regarding the legality of GB/EU flag number plates on British registered vehicles traveling to Europe. With the discontinuation of the popular GB/EU flag design in the UK, concerns arose among individuals who still displayed these number plates about their eligibility to drive in Europe without additional identification.
Antony Clark, a number plate expert at Plates4Less, explained the situation: “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.”
Antony Clark clarified that it’s unnecessary to change the entire number plate if your vehicle remains in the UK; you can continue using your existing plates without the GB/EU flag. He emphasised, “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.”
The UK has stringent regulations for number plates to ensure they comply with road safety standards. Illegally designed number plates can result in fines of up to £1000 and may lead to a failed MoT inspection.
In the UK, you can still order legal number plates featuring a flag decoration on the left-hand side. A flag can be displayed within a small rectangle, which can also be used to showcase a green flash on low-emission vehicles. Currently, permitted flags include the Union Jack, the Cross of Saint George, the Cross of Saint Andrew, and the Red Dragon of Wales.
Antony Clark noted, “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.” He explained that while before Brexit, 21% of their customers ordered an EU flag, in 2023, only 5% of customers opted for the UK flag. Some individuals preferred the EU flag not only for practical reasons but also due to its design.
Moreover, private number plate owners sometimes choose flags to express their political affiliations, even if they have no plans to drive abroad. Antony mentioned, “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. We’ve got to tell them that we can’t legally supply those any longer for use on the roads.”
Driving requirements when traveling abroad vary by country, and it’s essential to check the specific rules and regulations of the destination. Depending on the location, you might need a UK sticker, new plates with a UK flag, or both. Additionally, some countries may have other mandatory equipment, such as a warning triangle.
Plates4Less recommends that motorists always verify the individual requirements of the country they plan to visit.