Exiting the European Union (Armorial Bearings, Ensigns and Flags)

Part of Rating and Valuation – in the House of Commons at 8:18 pm on 20th March 2019.

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Photo of Steve Pound Steve Pound Shadow Minister (Northern Ireland) 8:18 pm, 20th March 2019

May I possibly trespass on the good nature of the House? There has not been an opportunity since St Patrick’s Day for us to mention in the House our sympathy for the three 17-year-olds who died in the Greenvale hotel in Cookstown on Sunday. I am sure I speak for the whole House in saying that our thoughts, prayers and sympathies are with them, their families and their friends.

May I also pay tribute to the Minister’s predecessor, Mr Vara who last raised this subject on the Floor of the House and spoke with great knowledge? Vexillology is the order of the day now and has become a compulsory requirement for ministerial appointment.

There are few things that fill the House with greater dread, fear and an awful sense of foreboding than someone—even someone as modest, quiet and shy as myself—saying, “I will not detain the House for long.” If those words are enunciated in a Strangford accent, that normally means that Hansard will send out for pizzas and everyone else will cancel their late-night taxis. However, on this occasion, the Opposition will support the Government.

The Minister made an important point about the solemnity and seriousness of this issue, and this is something that we ignore at our peril. We have a totally different template here in Great Britain. For example, on 21 October we fly the Union flag in recognition of Trafalgar Day at the Royal British Legion in Greenford, and in Northolt library they are virtually vexillomaniacs in that they scarcely miss an opportunity to fly the flag, on anything from International Women’s Day to Commonwealth Day, or when the local team makes it through to the cup final, although that does not happen very often.

What we are doing here is, hopefully, tidying up the legislation. The Minister is absolutely correct to say that this will not take effect until, sadly, we leave the European Union. Flags are important. Flags matter. They are more than just symbols. Sadly, I know that I do not speak for everyone in the House when I say that when the European flag, that noble oriflamme, is no longer displayed proudly from City Hall, I hope that that flag of idealism and unity will still flutter proudly in our hearts. Let the European flag flutter within us even if it cannot flutter without us in Northern Ireland. I am glad to support the motion.