Returning from Strasbourg, where the Council of Europe met last week, I’m hoping to speak in this week’s debate on the UK’s exit from the European Union.
The Council of Europe illustrates that Britain will still have a role irrespective of membership of the EU. Like NATO, the United Nations and other bodies, the Council of Europe is a place where nation states gather and this country can exercise global influence. Its members are MPs from each of the countries that form the CoE – 47 of them and it is an older institution than the EU.
Now we have a Bill to formalise the Parliamentary approval to begin the EU exit procedure. The Prime Minister has set out the objectives in speeches at home and abroad. This was appropriate as the aim is to implement the wishes of the majority to bring about an independent, global Britain.
I was pleased that the Prime Minister has emphasised that the decision to leave the European Union is not a rejection of Europe. Nor is it intended to break the many ties that link us in Europe. But the referendum vote was about restoring our means of determining our own path, of retrieving our powers of self-determination in many fields of activity, whether these are legal, commercial, or about the security and safety of our population.
We have many international links and these are not confined to Europe, not least because of our long-standing membership of the Commonwealth. If you think about our relationship with Canada as an example, the relationship began changing many decades ago as the country was given dominion status and began its own self-determination. When we were and are so keen on devolution and returning power to former colonial countries or parts of the UK itself it is only natural that many people would want to extend that view to our own governance
The European Union has often been a ‘one size fits all’ organisation, with decisions being imposed by a central bureaucracy, which makes those decisions without being either accountable or transparent. The UK was taken to task for not joining the central currency or the open borders agreement, yet in both instances the caution which was expressed by many people in this country has proved prescient in the long run.
We are taking the first steps in a journey towards restoring sovereignty, building new alliances or strengthening existing ones.