Flags for cash? Another U-turn from the government

Photo by Simon Ferrigno

Thousands of EU flags, notices and plaques are expected to pop up outside public buildings around the UK very soon. This is because the Westminster government is keen to receive eligible post Covid funding from the European Union.

The Independent reports that:

“Guidance issued to local authorities by the communities ministry this summer says the blue and yellow symbol of European unity is ‘required’ to be displayed around ‘every piece of signage, pavement sticker, or temporary public realm adaption’ funded under the scheme.”

So it turns out that the UK government, having recently discouraged local councils from flying the EU flag, has now had another U-Turn. They are now telling councils to put back the flags so as to receive high street recovery funding from the EU.

You just cannot make this up.

European Regional Development Fund

The European Regional Development Fund – that’s the one that supported huge numbers of projects across our country and region – is still supporting us. This time it’s with reopening our cities and town centres after Covid-19.

Despite the fact that Brexit has happened, the UK is still eligible for this EU funding until 2023 under the withdrawal agreement. There are certain conditions, like the display of EU symbols, but this does seem extremely generous.

Christine Jardine, MP said:

“This shows the absurd hypocrisy of this Conservative government. They have spent years denouncing EU projects and pulling the UK out of funding schemes like this, and now they have the gall to trumpet a fund made possible by exactly the sort of European cooperation they are turning their backs on.

“Instead of worrying about displaying the EU flag, the government should be working hard to support the thousands of struggling high street businesses – starting with extending the furlough scheme that’s due to taper off next week.”

Again from the Independent:

“The government appears so anxious to comply with the rules stipulating that the EU flag is displayed it has told councils that ‘copies of all publicity materials, including press releases, marketing activity and posters displayed in venues where activity takes place must be retained to demonstrate proactive activity and the correct use of the EU logo and required text’.”

Julie Ward, ex-MEP for the North West said:

“The EU is a rules-based club which is why the UK continues to receive funding from Brussels. We still qualify for certain kinds of support and the EU has not reneged on its agreements despite the ill-will promulgated by Boris Johnson and his lackey Lord Frost. When Michel Barnier first came to the European Parliament to address the MEPs following his appointment as Brexit negotiator in 2016 he said he would take ‘a pedagogical approach’.

“That means reading and abiding by charters, agreements and international law. This current round of funding to re-invigorate our devastated high streets is typical of EU regional development policy which always looks to the poorest regions and those communities most in need whether it is remote rural areas or urban deprivation. The UK government’s Shared Prosperity Fund and vacuous ideas about levelling up will come nowhere near plugging the gap when current funding agreements with the EU run out. We will then most definitely be the poor neighbour with only our tattered Union Jacks to wave as we disappear under rising sea levels.” 

To be continued

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