To mark Brexit, Richmond’s Council Leader swapped the yellow stars and blue background of the European Union flag… for the yellow stars and blue background of the Council of Europe flag.
Gareth Roberts, the Liberal Democrat leader of Richmond Council, swapped the identical flags on the pole outside Twickenham’s Civic Centre on Monday.
The move symbolises that even though the UK has left the European Union, it remains close to Europe, and remains a member of the Council of Europe.
Mr Roberts said: “We aren’t allowed to fly the European Union flag, but we can fly the Council of Europe flag. It will keep flying for as long as we are allowed to.”
Mr Roberts lowered the old European Union flag and tied on a brand-new Council of Europe flag.
Mr Roberts joked: “You may notice some similarities.”
Today @Gareth_Roberts_ the leader of Richmond Upon Thames oversaw a moving ceremony in which the EU flag was lowered. The bit I missed at the start was “as you know Britain has left the EU…” pic.twitter.com/bURNDNco9c— Nick Kennerley (@nikki_k1) February 3, 2020
Onlookers whistled and hummed Ode to Joy from Beethoven’s ninth symphony which the Council of Europe use as their organisational Anthem of Europe.
Mr Roberts added: “We want to avoid isolation. We are a part of Europe and we want to celebrate the fact that we are a European country.
“We are proud of connections with Europe and remain proud members of the Council of Europe.”
Mr Roberts said that the move was his idea, but that the suggestion was warmly received by his party.
He added that the Council of Europe was created to preserve and stand for the rule of law and human rights, values the people of Richmond stand behind.
The UK was one of the Council of Europe’s 10 founding members in 1949, and there are now 47 member states.
The current European flag was designed in 1955 and was adopted by the European Union when it was formed in 1993.
Mr Roberts said: “There was one which had a variation of the German flag with a leaping tiger, but I don’t think that would have gone down too well.”