Should we be prouder and more vocal about our membership of the Council of Europe?


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Should we celebrate Europe Day every May 5th?

An LDV reader, John Probert (who has the rare distinction of being a remaining former councillor on Middlesex County Council) has made a suggestion along these lines.

After January 31st we will still be members of the Council of Europe, who celebrate Europe Day on May 5th (EU members celebrate it on May 9th).

Such a celebration would publicise the fact that we remain members of the Council of Europe, which was first suggested under such a name by Churchill in a wartime broadcast on 21st March 1943.

Its Statute says:

The aim of the Council of Europe is to achieve a greater unity between its members for the purpose of safeguarding and realising the ideals and principles which are their common heritage and facilitating their economic and social progress.

The most famous achievement of the Council is, of course, the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), but there are a raft of other initiatives, conventions and promotions carried out by the 47 member states.

One key initiative of the Council is the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCPNM). In 2014, Danny Alexander announced that the UK government was officially recognising the Cornish as a national minority under the convention.

Both the ECHR and the FCNM have got confused in some people’s minds so that they think they are part of the EU.

Perhaps a good positive step, to come out of leaving the EU, will be for our membership of the Council of Europe to be highlighted and celebrated more.

Or will that lead to vast demands for us to leave the Council of Europe as well?

I hope not. As Wikipedia makes clear:

Whereas the member states of the European Union transfer part of their national legislative and executive powers to the European Commission and the European Parliament, Council of Europe member states maintain their sovereignty but commit themselves through conventions/treaties (international law) and co-operate on the basis of common values and common political decisions.

Or should our membership of the Council of Europe be kept purely as a subject for trivia quizzes, so that clever dicks can show off their knowledge of its existence?

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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7 Comments

  • nigel hunter 18th Jan '20 - 7:16pm

    The Council of Europe sounds fine to celebrate. Whilst people might dislike the EU as you say this is NOT the EU.Therefore as it has to do with ALL of Europe if they are complaints about it, it would show, to me, that those complaining hate ALL of Europe and thus can be called,if it is the correct word -racist. It could open up discussion If we are to trade with the rest of the World we can start with the non EU european countries to keep our Europeanism aliveIt could work to our advantage over time.

  • Ian Patterson 18th Jan '20 - 7:44pm

    The Council of Europe is but known to a handful of political wonks, nerds and geeks. The broad bulk of the population do not know of it and would not care. The EU as a question is now firmly on the back burner in this country. We can now deal with the after effects of 31 January. Pineing for a lost Euro Nirvana will get us nowhere!

  • nigel hunter 18th Jan ’20 – 7:16pm:
    If we are to trade with the rest of the World we can start with the non EU european countries…

    We already do, Switzerland is our seventh largest export market. Around 56% of our exports are now outside the EU…

    ‘UK exports outside the EU boosted by 6.3% in the last year to £376bn’ [December 2019]:
    https://www.pesmedia.com/uk-exports-outside-eu-five-times-as-fast-376-billion-ons-data/

    New ONS figures show in the 12 months to September that UK exports outside the EU grew nearly five times as fast as exports to countries inside the bloc.

    UK exports to the EU grew by 1.3% and now total £296.8 billion, while exports to non-EU countries saw growth of 6.3% to reach £376.7 billion.

    Over the 12 month period, non-EU markets remained the top destination for the UK’s renowned service sector. 60% of UK services exports, including financial, travel and transport, go to non-EU markets and are now worth £190.8 billion.
    […]

    The USA maintains its position as the number 1 destination for British goods and services, with increased demand driving exports up 11.4% to £133.7 billion – compared to £120.0 billion in the previous 12 months.

  • Meanwhile in the real world Jeff a view from the USA

    Brick-and-Mortar Melts Down in the UK, Worst Decline Since 2009, as Big Retailers Collapsed, 14,500 Stores Closed
    by Wolf Richter • Jan 18, 2020 • 68 Comments
    But even red-hot online sales cooled off late in the year as consumers turned sour.

    Consumers in the UK, generally a hardy bunch when it comes to borrowing and shopping, were not in a shopping mood before the holidays. Retail sales in December at non-food brick-and-mortar stores – ranging from specialty stores to department stores – fell 1.6% compared to December last year, seasonally adjusted, according to the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS). The less volatile three-month moving average fell 1.1% year-over-year, the biggest decline since September 2009, when consumers were trying to clamber out of the Financial Crisis:

    https://wolfstreet.com/2020/01/18/brick-and-mortar-melts-down-in-the-uk-worst-decline-since-2009-as-big-retailers-collapse/

    Tick tock Jeff chickens are coming home to roost.

  • @Jeff I am sure your stats are all correct. But what is your point?

    Your numbers show we are trading well with the world as members of the EU. Leaving could damage the nearly £300 billion of trade with the EU you highlight, and disrupt the nearly £380 billion of other trade flows as we lose the trade deals and side agreements established by the EU (https://ec.europa.eu/trade/policy/countries-and-regions/).

    Is this what you want?

  • If Richard North’s analysis is correct (http://www.eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=87491) our continued membership of UNECE is probably just as important:

    http://www.unece.org/info/ece-homepage.html

    The basic argument is that the EU is handing over management of a number of regulations to UNECE and these are being embraced by countries outside the EU leading to globalization of standards. To my inexpert eye this looks like something that could be important in negotiations with the EU.

    If anyone has knowledge of how the UNECE works in practice, it might make an interesting article for this site. It could help shape lib dem thinking.

  • We will need to decide at some stage, probably via a motion at Conference whether the present arrangements for cooperation in Europe are sufficient or whether we would prefer to rejoin the eu. A few years is probably desirable for the present arrangements to bed in. However, events might mean that we will have to decide sooner.

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