U.K. Reconsiders Flag-Flying Policy for Royal Birthdays Ahead of Prince Andrew's 60th

The prince, who recently stepped down from royal duties amid his ties to sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, turns 60 on February 19

Prince Andrew
Photo: Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty

With Prince Andrew’s birthday approaching, councils across the U.K. have been forced to reconsider its flag-flying policy.

According to The Sun, an email sent by Matt Stevenson, private secretary to Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government permanent secretary Dame Melanie Dawes, reminded the councils to fly the Union Jack for the Duke of York, who turns 60 on Feb. 19.

Though flying the Union Jack is normally customary for royal birthdays, the prince is currently mired in heavy controversy due to his ties to disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein, leading the U.K. government to discuss whether or not the policy should still be honored for the prince.

Prince Andrew
Prince Andrew at Royal Ascot. Mark Cuthbert/UK Press/Getty

A spokesperson for the government confirms to PEOPLE that discussions are taking place.

In reference to the email, the source adds, “This was an administrative email about a long standing policy. We are working with the Royal Household to consider how flag flying policy can be applied in changing circumstances, such as when a member of the Royal Family steps back from public duties.”

A U.K. government source points out that any decision on flag flying on designated days is for each individual local authority to decide is not mandatory.

Prince Andrew, Jeffrey Epstein
Prince Andrew and Jeffrey Epstein. Ian Forsyth/Getty Images; Neil Rasmus/Patrick McMullan

Mayor Joe Anderson of Liverpool told the Liverpool Echo that his city council will not be flying the flag in honor of the prince’s birthday, claiming it wouldn’t be “appropriate.”

“This isn’t to do with being anti-royal, we have flown the flag for the Queen before,” Mayor Anderson said to the publication. “But Prince Andrew isn’t a major royal, he’s not a significant member of the Royal Family.”

He added, “When you look at his behavior — it wouldn’t be appropriate for us to mark his birthday.”

In November, Prince Andrew decided to step back from royal duties following the backlash of his bombshell BBC interview surrounding his relationship with convicted sex offender Epstein. Consequently, his official royal role collapsed to almost nothing in a matter of days. He was removed from his hundreds of charitable patronages and his office was forced out of Buckingham Palace.

Prince Andrew
Prince Andrew BBC Interview
Prince Andrew’s BBC interview. BBC/Mark Harrison

In the interview, Andrew discussed his years-long friendship with Epstein and the sexual abuse allegations of Virginia Roberts (now Virginia Giuffre). Giuffre’s accusations, which the prince denies, mentioned coercion to have sex with the royal three times between 1999 and 2002 in London, New York and on a private Caribbean island owned by Epstein, starting when she was just 17 years old.

Lawyers representing some of the women who say they were abused by Epstein are urging Andrew to cooperate with authorities after it was revealed that the prince has provided “zero cooperation” to federal prosecutors and the FBI in the ongoing investigation into Epstein, who was arrested last summer on sex trafficking charges before dying by suicide while in federal custody.

U.S. attorney Geoffrey Berman said that Queen Elizabeth’s son has not responded to their interview requests, reports the New York Times. Buckingham Palace didn’t have a comment. The matter is being handled by Prince Andrew’s legal team.

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Queen Elizabeth, 93, and her eldest son and heir, Prince Charles, 71, have recently held talks, including an “emergency meeting” at her Sandringham estate, to discuss Prince Andrew’s connections with Epstein, reports The Sun.

“Both had hoped the Duke of York could perhaps be rehabilitated back into public life in time but that is now looking increasingly unlikely,” a source told the publication.

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