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

Part of Rating and Valuation – in the House of Commons at 8:21 pm on 20th March 2019.

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Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, Chair, Northern Ireland Affairs Committee 8:21 pm, 20th March 2019

I am not quite sure that I can follow that speech either in substance or in sentiment, but I shall do my best.

On the face of it, this is a minor, unobjectionable, technical measure. However, I commend the European Statutory Instrument Committee for being canny enough to spot the fact that the words “flag” and “Northern Ireland” appearing in the same sentence probably mean that we should exercise caution and be careful. Presumably that is why the Committee referred this measure for affirmative resolution.

I recall that shortly after the referendum in 2016, people were getting terribly excited about hauling down the European Union flag. I thought that that was rather sad and unnecessary, but of course when we come to leave the European Union, the big picture in the newspapers the following day will be the European Union flag being hauled down from overseas embassies, for example.

Europe Day is clearly important for a lot of people. It is important for the European Union itself, for our neighbours and for European Union citizens here. I think we need to be little relaxed about this particular flag in the United Kingdom. I note that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport issues guidance and advice in GB, although it is clearly more prescriptive for Northern Ireland for the obvious reasons that were touched upon by Gavin Robinson when he outlined his long-standing personal experience of this matter, particularly in relation to Belfast City Hall.

I think that this country as a whole needs to be just a little bit relaxed about the flying of this flag on Europe Day, although I have no idea what guidance DCMS will subsequently offer on the subject of flying flags. It would seem to be a reasonable expression of our amity and concord with other European Union states, and indeed European Union citizens, if we could perhaps be a little laid back about the flying of this flag on public buildings, given that we are in the habit of flying various flags and banners from such buildings on the appropriate days, either formally or informally, from time to time. Given the importance of flags as an expression of goodwill, it would not be inappropriate for DCMS to ponder that fact as it issues and updates its guidance.