It has been more than two years in the making. Now that it is finally here, the inclusion of the Union Jack on British driving licences seems a bit anti-climactic. It is significantly less important when one considers the challenges now being faced as a result of phasing out the paper counterpart. Nonetheless, your next driving licence will feature the Union Jack along with the EU banner if you live in England, Wales, or Scotland. Northern Ireland is exempt for now.
Prime Minister David Cameron proposed the idea of including the Union flag on driving licences to give British motorists a visual reminder of their national identity. He said he hoped it would bring Brits together by reminding them of the unity within the UK. Whether or not it does remains to be seen.
According to the Daily Mail, the government has issued more than 132 million photo-card licences with the EU banner since these were first introduced more than 17 years ago. With somewhere in the order of 10 million new licences issued every year, the number of drivers with the Union Jack on their documents will grow slowly but steadily. Ten years from now, we would expect every driver to have a licence bearing the British flag.
With all of that said, including the Union Jack on the driving licence is merely cosmetic from a legal standpoint. The flag does not have anything to do with licence class, driver ability, past performance, etc. All driver licences currently valid will remain so until the time of renewal or a driver has a change of information. There is no need to run out and replace an existing licence with a new one sporting the flag.
Ceremony no Substitute for Substance
Politicians are genuinely pleased with themselves now that the UK driving licence is changing again. Transport Minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon summed up the government's enthusiasm when he said, “Our flag is recognised and respected around the world and is something that British people take pride in. I am delighted to see it featured on driving licences.” Unfortunately, ceremony is no substitute for substance.
What is most important for the UK driving licence is what it represents in terms of driving ability. The driving licence tells the individual, the local community, and the nation as a whole that he or she is fit to drive on public roads. That should not be forgotten in a new era in which paper driving documents are being replaced by digital, online records.
It is for this reason that we routinely suggest clients check the driving licences of those workers who operate company vehicles. Regardless of whether or not a photocard licence contains the Union Jack, any driver that gets behind the wheel of a company vehicle must be legally eligible to do so. Otherwise, the company in question is risking its future. That risk will not be eliminated based on the Union flag or the EU banner.
1.Daily Mail – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3150444/British-driving-licences-carry-Union-Jack-UK-motorists-fly-flag-pride-say-ministers.html