Our referendum in 2016 was very clearly based on our membership of the European Union and nearly half the voters, voted for us to remain in the EU. However we were not being asked to reflect on the Treaty of London, nor were we being invited to respond to the agreement that the Council of Europe set out on 4th November 1950. We are now less than two months away from its 70th Anniversary and it would be tragic if we cannot celebrate this at the start of its 71st year. If the behaviour of our Government over a departure from the EU is placing at risk our commitment to the Council of Europe and Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms then change is clearly needed to stop such behaviour. If necessary we may need to suspend our departure from the EU until we can ensure that our actions will avoid us breaking international law and also damage our relationship with Northern Ireland. It was very clear to many of us who supported our involvement in the EU during the referendum, that the impact in Ireland would be very challenging. Since then we have also seen that the impact on Scotland is also going to be too costly for our nations. Sadly a small number of the Politicians and Campaigners during the referendum process did make references to the Council of Europe and the ECHR even though these are not part of the EU and they were not part of the process to leave or remain in the EU. The EU is made up of just over half of the nations that are part of the Council of Europe with 47 nations of which 27 are members of the EU. It is therefore possible for nations like Norway and 18 other nations to work well in the Council of Europe, even though they are not part of the EU. It is good to read the first few parts of the 1949 Treaty of London or Statute of the Council of Europe:
The Governments of the Kingdom of Belgium, the Kingdom of Denmark, the French Republic, the Irish Republic, the Italian Republic, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Kingdom of Norway, the Kingdom of Sweden and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland,
Convinced that the pursuit of peace based upon justice and international co-operation is vital for the preservation of human society and civilisation;
Reaffirming their devotion to the spiritual and moral values which are the common heritage of their peoples and the true source of individual freedom, political liberty and the rule of law, principles which form the basis of all genuine democracy;
Believing that, for the maintenance and further realisation of these ideals and in the interests of economic and social progress, there is a need of a closer unity between all like-minded countries of Europe;
Considering that, to respond to this need and to the expressed aspirations of their peoples in this regard, it is necessary forthwith to create an organisation which will bring European States into closer association,
It is clear that our Parliament along with the Government and most of its Ministers must take a step back from the current call from a small number of the senior Ministers and an advisor to act in a way that will put us at risk of pulling out from this 70 year agreement. We need to find a new way forward that will enable our nation to resolve the various challenge we now face in trying to leave the EU. It is clear that the Withdrawal Agreement was inadequate in terms of the need for a barrier in the Irish sea and so rather that ripping it up internally, we need to approach the EU with some humble aspects and request a very late extension to our departure. We then need to use that period to renegotiate our departure or indeed review if our departure is the best response to the 2016 Referendum as things stand currently. This challenge includes the need to resolve the conflict across Ireland and between Ireland and England and the lack of unity between England and Scotland.