That’s supposed to be a pun on Fun with Flags with Sheldon, by the way. My jokes being atrocious, it’s probably wasted…
Yesterday I did a quick interview with Louise Cullen for BBC Newsline on the subject of GB stickers for cars. The facts on this are fairly straightforward: under the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, if you’re driving in another country, you must have an identifier on the back of your car, and for the purposes of the convention, the code is the ISO 3166-1 alpha 2 code for the United Kingdom, GB. GB because with notable exceptions such as the USA and at least one of the Koreas, words such as United, Kingdom, Federal, Democratic and Republic don’t count when determining ISO country codes.
If you have what are sometimes called Europlates because they have a blue stripe with the European flag emblem at the top and GB at the bottom, you’ve been grand up to now because the Vienna Convention says that’s good enough. The Convention says a national flag or emblem of the issuing state or of the regional economic integration organization to which the country belongs can be included, and the stripe can be any colour as long as it’s on the left.
And there lies the rub. At the moment, we won’t belong to a “regional economic integration organization” in two months.
The chances are, based on the 42 years since that particular Vienna Convention (there have been several) came into force, that the Garda aren’t likely to start pulling you over for not having an oval badge, and even if they pull you over for something else, I reckon they won’t bother unless you’re giving them a really hard time.
France, I understand, and other countries in mainland Europe, are stricter, although for years you would be given an IRL plate at Rosslare if heading to Cherbourg. Strictly speaking incorrect, but I never heard of anyone being fined.
But the point?
The British Government cannot speak for Ireland. They cannot say it’s safe to take your car across the border without an oval badge, because they don’t have a piece of paper saying so.
It’s not a trade negotiation matter. They could simply have asked Ireland for an informal agreement to waive the identifiers on this one matter at any time in the last three years, and avoided all the hassle and bad publicity. There’s no evidence that they did.
But as Seamus Leheny points out, it’s another frivolous avoidable inconvenience for motorists and hauliers wasting time and money, even before you come to the anger in nationalist and republican circles, making community relations even more difficult.
It’s totally avoidable.