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Understanding the Legality of GB/EU Number Plates Post-Brexit

During the summer season, Plates4Less, a team within VRM Swansea, received an increasing number of inquiries about the legality of GB/EU flag-adorned number plates on British vehicles when traveling to Europe. It’s important to note that these GB/EU flag plates are no longer sold in the UK, and motorists who still use them may not automatically comply with European driving requirements unless they incorporate an additional identifier.

“Given that people are going on holiday and discovering that the old GB/EU plate no longer authorises them to drive abroad, we’ve witnessed an uptick in inquiries from existing customers regarding the continued legality of their number plates in the UK, as well as concerns about potentially failing their MoT,” explained Antony Clark, a number plate expert.

According to Antony Clark from Plates4Less, it is unnecessary to change your number plate altogether if your vehicle remains in the UK; you simply need to remove the GB/EU flag. “While we are no longer permitted to supply new number plates with the GB/EU flag, it remains entirely legal to use these plates for driving in the UK.”

Stringent rules and regulations govern UK number plates to ensure their compliance with road safety standards. Factors such as font, spacing, and material all contribute to their legality. Motorists are right to be vigilant about the legality of their number plates because an illegal plate can result in fines of up to £1000 and potential MoT failure.

In the UK, it is still possible to order legal number plates with a flag decoration positioned on the left-hand side. Flags can be displayed within a small rectangular section, which can alternatively be used for a green flash, typically seen on low-emission vehicles. The flags permitted on UK number plates 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 serves a similar purpose to what the EU flag used to do—it eliminates the need for an additional black and white UK sticker, except when driving to Spain, Cyprus, or Malta. Despite this, there is notably less demand for the UK flag,” Antony explained. “Before Brexit, 21% of our customers ordered an EU flag, but in 2023, only 5% opted for the UK flag. It seems that some individuals favored the EU flag, not just for its convenience in driving outside of the UK but also because they liked its design.”

Antony also pointed out that owners of private number plates frequently choose flag motifs to express their political affiliations, even if they have no intention of driving abroad. “Some clients consciously select the newer UK flag with pride, while others request the old EU plates to express their support for the EU. Unfortunately, we have to inform them that we can no longer legally supply the latter for road use.”

The requirements for driving abroad now vary depending on the destination country. Generally, you may need either a UK sticker or a new set of plates featuring a UK flag, or in some countries, both. Additionally, there are other considerations, such as the requirement in certain regions to carry a warning triangle in your vehicle.

Plates4Less advises motorists to always check the specific requirements of the country they plan to visit.

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