Legal: Do you need to replace your GB sticker?

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Do you need to replace the GB sticker on your bike with one that says ‘UK’ the next time you venture to Europe? ABR’s legal expert Andrew Dalton explains all

If you venture across the English Channel into Europe, there are some changes to keep in mind following the UK leaving the EU. One is the new UK nationality identifier, although this actually has nothing to do with Brexit.

The Government decided to change the national identifier from GB to UK with the United Nations, not the EU. GB, which technically means the Island of Great Britain, excludes Northern Ireland as a matter of fact. Whereas the UK is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland runs its DVLA at Coleraine on the island of Ireland so it has been historically separate from Great Britain. The GB plate came into force before the birth of the Irish Republic so there was a historical anomaly which has lain undisturbed for close to 100 years, until now. So, now our national identifier has changed from GB to UK, do we need a new sticker or new number plates?

As each EU member state has jurisdiction on road traffic matters, each EU member state can decide what stickers or number plates you need to affix to your bike. This is in turn governed by which general road traffic convention they abide by.

There are two big ones, just to make life easy. Countries that apply the Vienna Convention 1968 on road traffic accept identifiers on your number plate. A Union Flag and the letters UK are sufficient. However, there are three countries outside of the Vienna Convention in the EU, namely Cyprus, Malta, and Spain. These three countries do not accept number plate identifiers so you’ll need a UK roundel sticker instead.

Finally, if you have a pre-Brexit number plate with the blue and yellow ring of stars, can you use it? As the ring of stars never formed part of any convention and was never compulsory, I do not think it can be unlawful under treaty law, but beware of local law.

In English law, a particularly bored copper could potentially charge you with ‘uttering a false instrument’ under the Theft Act. This could happen if he was of the view that you were trying to mislead people that you were domiciled in an EU member state.

It would be a risible charge and the officer would be laughed out of court, but the point I make from this is that I do not know the number plate regulations in France, Spain, Holland, or indeed anywhere outside of England and Wales. So, for the price of a number plate, why find out the hard way? I made the decision to go with a UK plate and no ring of stars because life is easier if you do not have local plod pulling you over.