Political storm over Red Ensign

A POLITICAL storm has blow up over “barmy” Brussels proposals which opponents claim will force all British-registered shipping to fly the European flag rather than the Red Ensign.

By Graham Dines

A POLITICAL storm has blow up over “barmy” Brussels proposals which opponents claim will force all British-registered shipping to fly the European flag rather than the Red Ensign.

If the European Commission gets its way, ships ranging in size from the Cunard liners Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth 2 all the way down to tugs operating in the ports of Felixstowe and Harwich will have to display the EU's flag of 12 golden stars on a dark blue background.

The plan emerged as part of a package of maritime safety measures by the Commission, which stated its objective was to further “the future development of a European flag”. Two years ago, the Commission came up with a plan to replace the Union Jack within the Red Ensign with the European Union flag.


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East of England Conservative Euro MP Geoffrey Van Orden accused the Commission of trying to sneak the proposal in by the back door. “Conservative MEPs led the campaign against this barmy idea the last time it was put forward two years ago.

“We succeeded then but I suppose we should not be surprised that the Commission is resurrecting its plans under a new guise, given past form. The idea of flying an EU flag is offensive and defies common sense and centuries of tradition.”

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Jeffrey Titford, an East of England MEP for the UK Independence Party, said he was “100%” opposed to any attempt by Brussels to replace Britain's maritime flag.

“I would think the Red Ensign is one of the most recognised symbols on the high seas in the history of the world and yet Brussels is suggesting its replacement with the EU stars on the basis that it would help recognition at sea. What utter nonsense,” he said.

The Department for Transport said it would resist the Brussels proposals: “We are not going to get rid of the Red Ensign. We see neither need for nor advantage in a European flag.”

However, Liberal Democrat Euro MP Andrew Duff insisted: “There is no EU proposal to replace the Red Ensign with the European flag. It is suggested that the European flag should fly alongside national flags where the ships concerned meet high EU standards of design, safety and efficiency.

“The EU flag would be welcome label of quality. Merchant fleets from some EU countries are not as well-run as the British, and they would need to raise their standards in order to meet the EU criteria. I welcome the proposal,” said Mr Duff.

graham.dines@eadt.co.uk

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