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Is flying a flag on your car during the Euros illegal?

Old news, truthfully retold. Flying the flag from your vehicle is an established way of getting behind your team during a summer football tournament. But is it breaking the law? The Big Issue investigates

car flags Fact fiction

Illustration credit: Miles Cole

Every week in Fact/Fiction, The Big Issue examines spurious claims, questionable studies or debatable stories from the press to determine whether they are fact or fiction. This week we look at whether attaching your nation’s flag to your car – staple of summer football fandom – is allowed under the law.

How it was told

It is time to get patriotic. With Scotland, England and Wales all represented at football’s European Championships this summer, flags are flying across the three nations to mark
the occasion.

While all three won’t make it to the July 11 final of the delayed tournament, some fans are flying flags from their cars to make the most of the time their team remains in the mix.

There has been plenty of reporting on whether hanging a miniature flagpole on your vehicle is legal, with subtle differences in between the stories.

The Sun opted for: “NOT FINE: Footy fans could be fined £1,000 for flying an England flag from their cars during Euro 2020”.

The Daily Express headline took a different approach, focusing on internal flags. It read: “Driving warning: How you could be fined for flying England flag in your car”.

And Welsh and Scottish fans were given similar warnings.

Wales Online reported: “Warning to football fans over flag mistake that could cost you £1,000” and Edinburgh Live went for: “Scotland football fans face £1,000 fine for simple flag mistake during Euro 2020”.

Plenty of other local outlets got involved, including the same headline on Newsquest titles the Whitchurch HeraldGlasgow Times and Brighton’s Argus, which read: “£1,000 fine for decorating your car ahead of Euro 2021”.

But what’s the truth of the matter?

Facts. Checked

There is no specific law against flying a flag from your vehicle. However, as many outlets note, you can risk a fine for flying them.

The majority of stories come from the same source, a speculative marketing email from automotive firm Select Car Leasing, and focus on similar advice.

The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations Act 1986 is cited across the board, particularly Regulation 30, which advises motorists to avoid impairing their vision of the road.

It states: “Every motor vehicle shall be so designed and constructed that the driver thereof while controlling the vehicle can at all times have a full view of the road and traffic ahead of the motor vehicle.”

A third clause adds: “All glass or other transparent material fitted to a motor vehicle shall be maintained in such condition that it does not obscure the vision of the driver while the vehicle is being driven on a road.”

As the legislation pre-dates the widespread use of the flags mounted on a vehicle’s roof, it doesn’t cover them specifically.

The Act also relates directly to the windscreen and the “design and construction” of the vehicle rather than outlawing flag. So The Sun’s assertion that fans could be fined for “flying a flag” is somewhat misleading.

The Sun is also one of the outlets that fails to mention another relevant regulation from the same Act.

Regulation 53 relates to mascots on vehicles and states: “No mascot, emblem or other ornamental object shall be carried by a motor vehicle… in any position where it is likely to strike any person with whom the vehicle may collide.”

Again, there is no mention of specifically outlawing the flags but advice given on website Ask The Police backs up how motorists should be careful.

The site advises drivers to consider vision, the size of the flag (suggesting around a size of A4) and whether it could be considered an “insecure load” and fall off the vehicle, as well as referring to the above mascot regulation.

Considering the coverage, The Sun and the Daily Express’s headlines are widest of the mark – there is no specific offence for flying a flag and it is not illegal.

Perhaps the Wales Online and Edinburgh Live’s takes warning about “flag mistakes” could be considered more accurate, while the Newsquest headlines relating to decoration chime more with the regulation 53 ruling on mascots.

But, overall, ensure flags are secured away from windscreens and not oversized and there is no reason to call full-time on national pride this summer.

Worth repeating

66 per cent of Brits do not own a Union Jack flag or anything with a Union Jack on it

23 per cent said they owned some flags or items featuring it

Just four per cent said they owned many flags or items featuring the flag (Source: (YouGov, March 2021)

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