- European Commission in the UK - https://blogs.ec.europa.eu/ECintheUK -

Licensed to mislead

Stories suggesting that “British car number plates could be axed by a vote in the European Parliament next week” (Daily Express) are utterly untrue.

There is no proposal or amendment on the table that would create a standard design for all car number plates in the EU. Nobody has any intention of making such a proposal.

It is legally impossible that “officials in Brussels” could be given powers to “set a standard design for vehicle registration plates in all EU member states” (Express). The EU does not “want just one version” of number plates (Daily Mail print edition). It is nothing short of ludicrous to suggest “cherished personalised number plates could be banned” (Express).

The BBC has already looked into this and come to rather different conclusions: http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-eu-26975209

The full facts are these.

The European Commission put forward in April 2012 a proposal for an EU law to simplify the transfer of vehicles within the EU. Each year, individuals and companies have to move some 3.5 million vehicles to another Member State and need to get them registered according to national legislation.

This can be a bureaucratic nightmare, as rules for registering cars are often different in each Member State. So simplified rules might for example make life easier for the one million UK citizens living in Spain who might want to export a British car there either permanently or for a large part of the year.

The Commission proposal says nothing about common number plates or common colours.

The European Parliament will vote on this proposal on 15 April.

Meanwhile, some MEPs have tabled an amendment to the “preamble” (introduction) to the draft EU law concerned – not the main body of the law itself – which asks the Commission to look (at an unspecified time in the future, not as an integral part of the current proposal) at “a possibility of equipping….vehicles with number plates in common colours”….. This refers to “when transferring vehicles from one Member State to another”.

So the MEPs’ suggestion – and it is only a suggestion – is in essence that the Commission should look at whether owners should be able to opt for some kind of (probably temporary) EU plate, if this would make the process of transferring a car’s registration from one Member State to another easier.

Elsewhere in the amended text the MEPs propose, they make even more explicit that the whole Regulation only applies to cars being transferred by their owners between Member States and NOT to other cars.

So the amendment is not about standard plates for all cars, still less compulsory ones.

What is more, the European Parliament has not even voted on the limited amendment the MEPs really are proposing.

If the Parliament did eventually vote it through, it would be doing no more than expressing a position about something – itself bearing little relation to what the Express and Mail are claiming – that it would like the Commission to look at in a few years’ time.

Before even the limited measure these MEPs are asking the European Parliament to ask the Commission to think about in the future could become EU law, it would need to be formally proposed by the Commission.

The Commission has not proposed such a measure and does not plan to do so.

Any such proposal if it were ever to exist would then need to be agreed by BOTH a majority of MEPs in the European Parliament and a large majority of national Ministers.

So in a sentence, these stories entirely misrepresent the content, the effect and the status of what is on the table.

They turn something that would be helpful to some British motorists – and would not affect the vast majority at all – into an absurd fantasy about scrapping British number plates.

This kind of grossly misleading story about an EU matter – only weeks before the European elections – amounts to nothing short of hoodwinking readers.