Flying the flag: UK govt tells ministries to wave Union Jack

International

FILE – In this file photo dated Friday, Jan. 1, 2021, a British Union flag flies atop the Houses of Parliament in London, on the morning after the U.K. fully left the European Union. The British government said Wednesday March 24, 2021, the national flag should be flown every day on all public buildings, the latest move in an increasing embrace of the Union flag. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham, FILE)

LONDON (AP) — The British government said Wednesday that the national flag should fly on all government buildings, the latest move in a highly visible embrace of the Union Jack by Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The government has told ministries and local administrations that the flag should be flown every day instead of the current practice requiring it to be hoisted for special occasions, such as the opening of Parliament and the birthday of Queen Elizabeth II.

“People rightly expect to see the Union Flag flying high on civic and government buildings up and down the country as a sign of our local and national identity,” Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick said.

Flying the national flag is less common in the United Kingdom than in some other countries, such as the United States. But since Johnson was elected in December 2019, the Union Jack has become increasingly visible — an ever-present backdrop to interviews by government ministers from their offices or homes.

Its increased prominence is part of a government campaign to stress the unity of the United Kingdom at a time when support for Scottish independence is growing. The red, white and blue Union flag combines the emblems of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, which make up the United Kingdom along with Wales.

Some Britons, especially those on the left, are uncomfortable with visible displays of patriotism, or with the flag’s associations with the British Empire and Brexit.

Under the new rules, any government building wishing to fly the European Union flag will need special permission. The government says that regulations “to allow the EU flag to be flown on public buildings without acquiring planning permission will also be removed following the U.K.’s departure from the European Union,” which became final at the end of 2020.

The new fly-the-flag guidance won’t apply in Northern Ireland, where displaying British and Irish flags is highly sensitive and governed by complex rules.

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