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2021: the year of number plate changes

21 December 2020

From Green Plates in time for Christmas, to GB EU plates becoming prohibited to fit from 1st January, to the first new British Standard in 20 years, next year is all-change for the number plate.

Download our PDF timeline and summary below - now updated for the September changes around UK identifiers for overseas travel. 


What must I do as a number plate supplier?

All number plate suppliers must comply with all the rules around number plates. Failing to meet the regulations can mean a fine and suspension from the Register of Number Plate suppliers.
Your BNMA manufacturer member will be in touch to explain how these changes may affect you and help you stay compliant with the right legislation, at the right time.


What are the key changes?

There are 6 key changes:

1. GB EU plates end after Brexit’s transition period: fitting GB EU flag plates is prohibited from 1st January 2021. UK vehicles must also show a GB oval when travelling overseas.


2. BS AU 145e becomes mandatory in September: the new British Standard for plates, BS AU 145e becomes mandatory on 1st September 2021, to co-incide with the ‘71’ plate registration. See point 5 for other changes made recently to come in with BS AU 145e.


3. The current and new standards will run in parallel for a transition period: plates meeting either the current (BS AU 145d) or new (BS AU 145e) standard are allowed to be fitted between 1st January 2021 and 31st August 2021, to help motor traders transition between the two standards.



4. Black & silver plates on pre-1980 vehicles only: classic and vintage black and silver number plates will not be permitted for vehicles registered on or after 1st January 1980. The plate rules no longer roll forward with the rolling historic vehicle tax classification.


5. Dimensions, spacing and border definitions change with BS AU 145e: rules on some of the plate specifics have changed with the Statutory Instrument passed on 30th November 2020 to come in with the new standard. The most important changes are:

a. The space between the bottom of the registration mark and any other mark must not be less than 7 millimetres.
b. Outlet artworks (at the bottom centre of the plate) can only be one shade of non-reflecting colour and be between 3 and 10mm high (inclusive).
c. Optional borders must be 5mm or thinner in width, can only be one shade of non-reflecting colour and mustn’t infringe closer than 10mm from the edge of any registration digit.

Note: the changes described in section 5 are in addition to the current specification document for BS AU 145e so will not currently be shown in the BS AU 145e specification provided on the British Standards website.


6. GB plates become UK plates for overseas travel



When will they become effective?

Here’s a brief timeline of the rules

8th December 2020
Permitted (but not mandatory):


1st January 2021

Permitted (but not mandatory):


1st September 2021

• Plates fitted must comply with the new British Standard, BS AU 145e (where the vehicle is registered after 1980).


28th September 2021

Vehicles travelling abroad to most countries (there are exceptions) must show the Union Flag and UK initials or a UK oval.  GB ovals should be covered over and no other plates act as national identifiers for overseas travel.

Find out more in our news article.


How do I ensure I’m compliant?

Your BNMA manufacturer member will be in touch with you in relation to changes affecting you, in particular changes coming in the new British Standard, BS AU 145e.

To find your manufacturer member’s contact details, go to our members’ page and click on their logo to go to their website.