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Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson lifts ban on embassies flying rainbow flags for Pride

Nick Duffy August 5, 2016

In one of his first acts as Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson has scrapped a controversial ban on Pride flags being flown from UK embassies and consulates around the world.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond came under fire last year when he ordered British embassies to abide by a policy that blocks any flag other than the Union Flag being flown, preventing them from flying a rainbow flag for Pride.

But PinkNews has confirmed today that the new Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has changed FCO policy to permit embassies to fly rainbow flags if they wish.

It is understood to be one of the first major policy shifts enacted by Mr Johnson since taking his post last month.

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesperson told PinkNews: “The Foreign Secretary has agreed that FCO buildings, including at diplomatic missions overseas, can fly the rainbow flag in order to mark relevant  international days such as the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) and locally relevant events, such as local Pride celebrations.”

It will be up to Ambassadors and High Commissioners to decide whether they wish to fly the rainbow flag for events.

The rainbow flag is already flying from the British Consulate in Amsterdam for Amsterdam Pride, while PinkNews understands the British Embassy in Reykjavik will fly it for Reykjavík Pride.

The shift marks a turnaround from just one month ago when the FCO under Mr Hammond rejected a proposal to change the policy.

On July 5, the FCO rejected the recommendation from the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, saying: “The FCO has a very clear policy on flag flying: it is to fly the Union Flag at the FCO and all its Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates at all times.

“The only other flags that are flown are of the constituent countries of the UK and the UK overseas territories on significant days for them, and the European Union flag in certain countries.”

Mr Johnson took office in a reshuffle just one week later. Mr Hammond is now Chancellor of the Exchequer

MPs including Labour’s Angela Eagle and Conservative Nigel Evans previously called for a change in the policy.

Mr Evans said previously it “would send the important signal that we stand by the side of those who are oppressed, and indeed, in some cases, those who fear death for the crime of being born gay”.

Ms Eagle had contended: “We need to redouble our efforts to root out prejudice and discrimination at home and abroad/ The Foreign Secretary’s decision to ban the Pride flag from being flown at UK embassies around the world sends exactly the wrong signal.”

More: Boris, Boris Johnson, FCO, flag, foreign office, Foreign Secretary, Gay, LGBT, Pride, rainbow

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