British vehicles traveling in Europe need UK number plates or stickers rather than GB from September 28th 2021, the Government confirmed. This change ensures that Northern Ireland is better represented. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom but not Great Britain. Great Britain is merely England, Scotland and Wales.
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: ‘Changing the identifier from GB to UK symbolises our unity as a nation. It is part of the wider move to use the UK identifier across government’.
UK sticker rules explained
The UK sticker rules are easy to follow. To be legal, a car’s number plate can include the UK identifier and a Union Flag. In this scenario there is no need for a UK sticker. However, the vehicle’s rear must have a sticker if its plate shows the GB identifier with a Union flag, the Euro symbol, the English flag, the Scottish flag, the Welsh flag, or the letters and numbers only.
There are further considerations. In Spain, Malta, and Cyprus a UK sticker is required even if the vehicle’s number plate has a UK identifier and the Union flag. In contrast, the UK sticker or number plate is not required under any circumstances in the Republic of Ireland – even though it is part of the European Union.
UK sticker criticised
New UK sticker rules have not found favour with everyone. Ian Liddell-Grainger, Tory Member of Parliament for Bridgwater and West Somerset, is among the critics. ‘It seems to be a complete waste of money when we do not need to be wasting money’, he stressed. ‘It also seems to be a slap in the face for people who are proud to be GB. I do not know why we are bothering’, Mr Liddell-Grainger added.
The AA has reservations, too. It argued the change erodes our national heritage. President Edmund King said: 'From a heritage point of view we have lots of classic cars such as Jaguars, Spitfires, and so on’. Such cars have metal GB marks that some motorists consider historic, interesting, and symbolic of the past.
Mr King confirmed that he is not saying motorists should remove metal GB marks from classic cars. However, he bemoaned that they must now add ‘tacky plastic’ stickers nearby. The President argued that this change is the latest recent loss for drivers, rather than the only loss. ‘We lost the tax disc and are now losing another element of British motoring: the GB sticker’, Edmund King stressed.