New Zealand Wants a New, Less British Flag

Seeking to carve out an identity distinct from the UK, some in New Zealand are pushing for a new flag

New Zealand's Flag
New Zealand's Flag Nick Kean

New Zealand’s Prime Minister, John Key, is calling on his country to rethink its current flag. The goal: eliminating the UK’s Union Jack from the flag.

From his speech

It’s my contention that when we engage internationally, in forums ranging from secondary school debating to the United Nations, or from age-grade representative sports teams to the Olympics, we should be represented by a flag that is distinctly New Zealand’s.

A flag that is only New Zealand’s.

A flag that is readily identified by New Zealanders, and with New Zealanders.

I believe the current flag is not that flag.

I believe that not only can we do better, but that this is the right time to get on with it.

New Zealand wouldn’t be the first former colony to rid itself of the U.K.’s Union flag. Canada eliminated the symbol from their flag in 1965, making the iconic Maple Leaf its symbol. Key wants New Zealand vote on a new design for a flag sometime in the next three years, so it's still too early to tell what the new New Zealand flag could be. (Key did mention that he favored a silver fern on a black background, a design currently used by New Zealand sports teams.)

Making light of the news that New Zealand is considering a new flag, the Guardian came up with a quiz about flags around the world that still feature the Union flag (also referred to the Union Jack) in some form. 

The Union flag itself is a combination of flags from the Kingdoms of England and Wales (St. George’s Cross), the Kingdom of Scotland (St. Andrew’s Cross) and the Kingdom of Ireland (St. Patrick’s Cross.) Wales wasn’t included independently because when the first Union flag was made in 1606, Wales and England were already combined.

That doesn’t mean the Welsh are happy about the current state of affairs. Seven years ago, there were calls in Parliament for the Welsh symbol of a dragon to be added to the U.K.’s flag.

That measure didn’t fly, but now a new flag question has risen up the proverbial flagpole: what would happen to the flag if Scotland votes for independence later this year?

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