'An insult to the nation': Fury after Argentina tells British ships you’re not allowed to fly your flag

 

The Foreign Office has accused Argentina of “unacceptable harassment and intimidation” after official in Buenos Aires allegedly ordered a cruise ship to remove the British red ensign or face a fine and some unspecified “trouble”.

Admiral Lord West of Spithead, who was at the helm of HMS Ardent when the frigate was sunk during the Falklands War, was a passenger on the MS Queen Victoria liner and said he was told about the flag incident by the ship's captain over dinner.

He said he planned to raise the matter in Parliament, while the Government said it would contact Carnival UK, the company that ultimately owns the ship.

Buenos Aires has banned vessels from flying the red ensign, used by non-military British shipping, from docking, although it had been thought this only applies to ships that had gone to the Falklands.

Lord West, a Labour peer and former head of the Royal Navy, said the law was “atrocious”, adding: “I think it's an insult… to the nation.”

“After we'd gone round Cape Horn I was at dinner with the [Queen Victoria's] captain, and the captain said to me that when they were in Buenos Aires that she'd basically been threatened with a punitive fine of $10,000 and also told there'd be 'trouble' in inverted commas - not specified - if she didn't take down the red ensign which the ship flies,” he told Channel 4 News.

A Foreign Office spokesman said it condemned any attempts by Argentina “to unnecessarily interfere with the legitimate transit of UK-flagged vessels”.

“This appears to be another example of unacceptable harassment and intimidation,” he said.

“We robustly defend UK interests against any attempts by the Government of Argentina to disrupt any lawful commercial activity. We are urgently discussing the matter with Carnival UK and will raise this with the Argentine authorities.”

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