Any EU proposal which affects the UK is pretty much guaranteed to induce a collective groan. And the one to replace British licence plates with a colour-coded, identity-tagged, common European version is no exception.
Free trade or interfering?
The plans are part of a wider set of proposals to make it easier to register vehicles in a different EU country, bolstering the car trade and increasing free movement of vehicles around the continent. The perceived downside if the plans go ahead is that it will make displaying the blue and gold EU symbol mandatory. What’s perhaps not so bad is that it will also signal the end of cherished, personalised number plates, some of which are pretty cringe-inducing.
While motoring groups are concerned about the time and cost involved in implementing such changes, Conservative MEPs (members of the European Parliament), who are leading the charge against the proposals, seem more concerned about us having to fly the EU flag. Syed Kamall, leader of Britain’s Conservative MEPs calls the plans ‘idiotic’.
He said: “This was meant to be a useful piece of law to make it simpler for people to register their vehicle in a different EU country. Instead the Dutch Liberal Democrat MEP working on the legislation has introduced completely unnecessary clauses seeking a common design for all European number plates and a common system of identification tags.” He added: “You can bet your life the common design would incorporate the EU flag. British motorists want British number plates – not European ones.” All of which seems a little bit ‘little-Englander’ to me, but this isn’t the first time there’s been a flare-up over flying the flag…
Flying the flag
Up until 2008, motorists who displayed any emblem other than the 12-star EU log on your registration plate were committing an offence that could land them with a fine. It took a full seven years of negotiating to overturn this rule so that car owners could choose to display the Union Flag, Cross of St George, St Andrew’s cross or the Welsh Dragon.
If the proposals go through, this ruling will probably be overturned, meaning a return to the flying of the EU flag or nothing. It’s also likely to signal an end to Britain’s traditional white and yellow number plates in favour number plates in common EU colours. And although the cost and logistics of such a move should without doubt be at the heart of any objections, some motoring groups are claiming that a break with tradition is a bad thing.
Simon Williams, spokesperson for the RAC, said: “The British number plate is simple, highly effective and, while it has changed several times, has been part of our driving heritage for 110 years. While there are clearly benefits to be had from having the same style of number plate throughout Europe with identification tags to stop fraud, it would be a real shame to lose ours. “It ought to be possible to come up with a set of common guidelines that allow countries to adapt their number plates slightly without going for full standardization.”
There’s also a concern that the ID tagging of number plates will be the first step in an EU-wide database vehicles to help protect against fraud – but would this necessarily be such a bad thing? We already have to register ownership of our vehicles with the DVLA, so what difference would it make if details were held on a Europe-wide database?
So it’s over to you...Should we ditch our 110-year-old registration system in favour of the new EU-backed scheme? Or will this break with tradition just lead to more interference from the EU? Let us know your views…