UK reconsiders plan to fly flags on Prince Andrew's birthday

LONDON — The British government says it is reviewing the policy of raising Union Jacks atop town halls on royal birthdays, after some officials balked at flying the flag for scandal-hit Prince Andrew.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has sent an email to local authorities reminding them to fly the flag for Andrew's 60th birthday on Feb. 19.

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Andrew, who is eighth in line to the throne, qualifies for the flag-flying because he is a child of Queen Elizabeth II. But he has been tarnished by his friendship with the convicted U.S. sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, who died in August.

An American woman, Virginia Roberts Giuffre, says she had several sexual encounters with the prince at Epstein's behest, starting when she was 17. The FBI wants to question the prince as part of its Epstein investigation, but a U.S. prosecutor said last month that Andrew had been unco-operative.

The prince denies wrongdoing, but quit his public duties in November.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson's spokesman, James Slack, said the government and royal household were "considering how the (flag) policy applies in changing circumstances such as when members of the royal family step back from their duties."

Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson said his city would not be raising the Union Jack for Andrew.

"When you look at his behaviour, it wouldn't be appropriate for us to mark his birthday," he told the Liverpool Echo.

Andrew’s birthday is also due to be marked by a ringing of the bells at Westminster Abbey. The abbey said it had no plans to change that policy.

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