Liz Truss demanded that no EU flags be on show at this week’s Prague meeting of European leaders, it has been reported.
The prime minister attended the summit with over 40 other prime ministers and presidents and discussed the war in Ukraine and energy crisis hitting the continent.
But the blue European flags – usually a common sight at such meetings – were notably absent from the common areas Prague Castle, where the gathering was being held.
EU news website EURACTIV reports that the flags were kept away from the inaugural European Political Community summit at the demand of Ms Truss and the UK delegation.
Diplomats representing the Czech European Council presidency, who were involved in organizing the gathering, were keen to stress that the event was “nothing to do with the EU itself.”
The British government and its Tory MPs are sensitive to any suggestion that Britain could be engaging with EU political institutions – which they spent years trying to take Britain out of.
Some leaders however brought their own EU flags, with Emmanuel Macron positioning one next to the French flag during his meeting with the the UK PM.
Displaying the blue flag next to national flags is standard practice in many EU countries, even on non-EU occasions – and the yellow stars can be seen draped from civic buildings such as town halls.
Ms Truss attended Thursday meeting of the European Political Community on the basis that it would present a united front against Vladimir Putin, who was not invited.
But she was keen to stress that her attendance was “not about moving closer to Europe” but instead presenting a united front against Russian aggression.
The European Political Community, as the gathering was known, was proposed by French president Emmanuel Macron as a forum for 44 European countries to discuss continent-wide issues outside the confines of the EU.
Further meetings are expected to take place in the coming years, with Britain even marked out a possible host country.
The blue flag with yellow stars is known as the Flag of Europe and is actually widely used by non-EU institutions such as the Council of Europe. In recent years it has become particularly associated with the EU, however.
When approached by The Independent about whether the UK had insisted on the absence of EU flags, a UK government official pointed to Ms Truss’ comments at the meeting, which she said it was “not an EU construct or an EU alternative”.
The prime minister had added: “I am very clear about that. It brings together governments from across Europe, around a third of whom are outside the EU.
“A post-Brexit Britain, as an independent country outside the EU, should be involved in discussions that affect the entire continent and all of us here at home. We are taking part as an independent sovereign nation, and we will act as one.”