Alastair Osborne points out the many ways in which Brexit does not spell the end of our European identity, and argues for active measures to reassert our internationalist outlook.
I promised myself that I would die in a ditch if I did not write this before 31st December: it’s time for us to take control of our European identity again. We may be about to leave the EU but we are not leaving Europe. Labour supporters are part of an internationalist, democratic socialist party committed to asserting our European identity.
The UK remains a member of the Council of Europe, the organisation of 47 countries founded in 1949, long before the EU. Labour Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin was in the vanguard of those who brought it about. We send a full cross-party delegation to its Parliamentary Assembly in Strasbourg and we have representation from local authorities and the Scottish Parliament on its Congress of Local and Regional Authorities.
The Council of Europe has a proud record of standing up for human rights, democracy and the rule of law. We remain signed up to the European Court of Human Rights. The Tory Government might huff and puff about replacing it with a Bill of Rights but they should remember that it was Churchill and the Tory Party that helped establish the ECHR.
Ode to Joy is still our European Anthem. Again it was first adopted by the Council of Europe in 1972 and is widely recognised as the appropriate anthem when Europe competes in sporting events or is represented anywhere as Europe. We do not abandon the anthem just because we are leaving the EU.
Finally, there is no need to haul down the European flag. It is the flag of Europe as a whole not just the EU. Since 1955 the blue flag with twelve yellow stars has flown proudly over Europe and should continue to do so here in the UK after Brexit. Why don’t we start a campaign to encourage its increased use by the Scottish Parliament, local authorities and other Scottish institutions? Now more than ever we should declare ourselves proud to be Scottish, proud to be British and proud to be European.