During the summer season, the Plates4Less team at VRM Swansea noticed an increase in inquiries regarding the legality of the GB/EU flag on number plates of British registered vehicles destined for Europe. The GB/EU flag, which was once popular, is no longer sold in the UK. People still displaying these number plates may not automatically qualify to drive in Europe unless they incorporate an additional identifier.
Antony Clark, a number plate expert at Plates4Less, explained, “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.”
According to Clark, there’s no need to change your number plate if your vehicle remains in the UK; you can simply remove the GB/EU flag. “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.”
Strict rules and regulations govern UK number plates to ensure their road legality. As such, concerns about the legality of plates are justified, as an illegal number plate can result in fines of up to £1000 and potential MoT failure.
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 alternatively be used to display a green flash on low-emission vehicles. The allowed flags include 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,” explained Antony. “Despite this, people are much less interested in getting a UK flag.” He continued, “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 noted that owners of private number plates often choose flags to display 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. We’ve got to tell them that we can’t legally supply those any longer for use on the roads.”
To drive abroad post-Brexit, the requirements depend on the country you’re visiting. You may need either a UK sticker or a new set of plates with a UK flag, or in some countries, both. Other considerations include compulsory items like a warning triangle in certain areas.
Plates4Less advises motorists to always check the individual requirements of the country they plan to visit.