100 years ago, when the Empire reached its zenith, the Red Ensign was flown on HALF of all the world's ships - showing that Britain truly did rule the waves, owning half of all the world's ships.
Now, Brussels wants us to get rid of the Red Ensign. Even the Scottish National Party, the party that wants Scottish independence from Britain, was outraged by the EU's proposal - Scotland's fishing industry has been purposefully destroyed by the EU.
The Red Ensign, used by Britain's Merchant Navy.
For centuries it has fluttered at the stern of British merchant ships as they ply the oceans.
In time of peace and of war, the "Red Duster" has been a proud symbol of our long maritime tradition.
But the bureaucrats in Brussels want the Merchant Navy to scrap the Red Ensign - which consists of the Union Flag in the corner of a scarlet banner - and replace it with a Euro flag.
The strategy emerged yesterday when EU officials unveiled proposals that refer to "harmonised" safety legislation which could be "the precursor to the future development of the European flag.
It would mean that all of Britain's 500-strong merchant fleet - including ferries, passenger vessels and even fishing boats - would have to fly under the Euro flag of gold stars on a blue background.
Critics in Britain accused Brussels of atatcking the country's heritage and another sneak attempt to create "a country called Europe" by stealth. It follows similar measures which have led to the EU flag being displayed on car number plates, and on the driving license photo card.
Tory Euro-MPs led a successful campaign against the idea of a maritime Euro flag when it emerged bearly two years ago. But Brussels has not dropped the idea.
The earlier plan called for all ships registered in an EU country to display in a corner of their NATIONAL flags the EU emblem. The latest recommendation goes further.
EU Commission maritime safety recommendations claim the development of "a European flag" on all EU merchant shipping flags would help recognition at sea of vessels meeting the strictest European and international safety standards.
EU Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot said: "This could be the precursor to developing a common Euro flag for emrchant shipping."
Captain John Sail, chairman of the Merchant Navy Association, said: "We are appalled. The Red Ensign has great historic resonance in this country."
Tory MEP Geoffrey Van Orden accused the Commission of trying to sneak the proposal in "by the back door" and added: "This is nothing short of creeping Euro-federalism." Mr Van Orden, whose East of England constituency covers a number of significant UK ports, added: "Nothing is more recognisable at sea than the Red Ensign. It has always symbolised the highest safety standards."
Scottish National Party MEP Ian Hudghton said the plan was "utterly ridiculous." He said the idea of flying an EU flag would be greeted with fury" in Scottish coastal communities which had suffered so much from Euro fishing quotas.
The Red Ensign
At the beginning of the last century, as the Empire reached its senith, the Red Ensign flew from HALF of the world's merchant ships, becoming a symbol of British commercial prowess and enterprise.
But its origins lay in the country's military successes at sea, and go back as far as the Elizabethan "freebooters" - officially licensed pirates - such as Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Drake, who flew it during the late 16th Century.
The Royal Navy later became divided into three squadrons, Red, White and Blue, each with its own ensign. However, a Red Ensign with the Union Flag in one quarter became the emrchant flag of Great Britain after the Act of Union in 1707. This led to confusion, with observers unabl to tell whether a ship was a merchantman or a member of the naval red squadron.
In 1864, the White Ensign was reserved for the Royal Navy, the Blue Ensign for the Royal Naval Reserve, and the Red Ensign for the Merchant Navy. These divisions remain to this day.
Nelson flew a Red Ensign in the run-up to the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, switching to the traditional battle flag - the White Ensign - only shortly before engaging and defeating the enemy.
Today, 2.5% of the world's merchant ships fly the Red Ensign - around 500 ships.