Labour 'sellout' to give EU flag same status as Union Jackby JAMES CHAPMAN, Daily Mail
Labour has been accused of a sellout to Brussels after quietly upgrading the flag of the European Union so that it has the same legal status as the Union Jack and the Cross of St George.
It is illegal to fly a flag without prior permission
The EU flag, with its 12 gold stars on a blue background, will be able to be flown without planning permission like any other national flag.
The change in the law is buried deep in one of dozens of consultation documents and statements published by ministers in the run-up to Parliament's summer recess.
Ministers insisted they were simply scrapping 'outdated' laws restricting the flying of flags in many circumstances.
But the Tories and the United Kingdom Independence Party accused the Government of pushing ahead with a pro-European agenda, despite widespread opposition.
Currently, national flags can be flown without planning permission - as long as they are hung from a vertical flagpole. But the EU flag is classed as an advertisement, and does require clearance from the local planning authority.
It is technically illegal to fly any national flags from sloping poles or from windows without permission.
The rule means thousands of football fans were breaking the law during the World Cup by displaying the Cross of St George.
Ministers say that rule will be scrapped in a shake-up of the planning system, meaning national flags can be flown without permission however they are displayed.
But at the same time, the EU flag will be upgraded so that it falls into the same category as national flags.
The UK Independence Party's leader in Brussels, Nigel Farage, said: 'This is yet another sneaky step to establish a national identity for a European superstate against the majority wish of the people of Britain.'
He accused the Government of attempting to hide the elevation of the Euro flag behind a populist change to allow England's own national flags to be flown more freely.
'This is yet another example of how this Government is dragging us further and further into a federal Europe,' Mr Farage added.
'We already have the EU flag on our driving licences and our car number plates - where is the popular will for this? It raises the spectre that even the Queen may be pressured to fly the Euro flag from Buckingham Palace.'
'The EU has its own anthem and currency, yet as far as I am aware there is no country called Europe. How can it be acceptable that it flies its flag in our country as if it were its own?"
Tory MP Maria Miller said the proposal was 'absolutely ridiculous'.
'The EU flags simply should not be given the same legal status as the Union Jack,' she said.
'That's our national flag. The EU flag is something that has been concocted by a bunch of bureaucrats and is actually nothing more than a logo for Europe.'
Planning minister Yvette Cooper insisted: 'The regulations on flags are currently woefully out-of-date and far too bureaucratic.
'It is ridiculous that someone could be prosecuted for displaying their national flag.
'As the World Cup demonstrated, many people want to show their support for their national team and they should be able to do so without fear of prosecution.'
A Peterborough family fell foul of existing regulations during the World Cup when they were threatened with prosecution for flying the cross of St George outside their home.
Because they were hung at an angle to the house, they were classed as advertising.
The city council eventually backed down, saying the flags could be flown on special occasions.
A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said two other international flags as well as the EU banner - those of the UN and the Commonwealth - would also be allowed to be flown without permission under the legal changes.
'This is about making sure the planning process for putting up flags is sensible because at the moment, it's not,' she said.
'The EU flag will never be classed as a national flag. It's not. It's a flag of an international organisation, like that of the UN or the Commonwealth.
'This is not about changing its status, but it won't now need planning permission. It's about making sure that any national flag or the three international flags - the EU, UN and Commonwealth - can be flown without having to go through the palaver of having to get permission.'