It is important that we have good relations with mainland Europe whatever the outcome of Brexit. There is a lot of good history here. Since the end of the Second World War, together with the rest of Europe, we have established a world leading focus on human rights, on democracy and on the rule of law. These three things underpin the stability and security we all feel across the continent. The Henley constituency is part of this; it forms a part of our everyday lives. But that Europe is much bigger than the EU and it is much older. It is a Europe represented by the Council of Europe – a body of 47 countries completely separate from the EU. I am a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council. The UK delegation is cross-party. The Council covers key issues of importance to us all such as climate change. the treatment of refugees and child sexual exploitation. In France, for example, it is helping fund ground breaking cancer research. The Council meets four times a year and I have personally spoken on protecting whistle-blowers, treatment of migrants, violence against women, on extending the ombudsman schemes, and on how to run referenda. It is the Council which has led the way in gender equality, in fighting racism and antisemitism, in fighting violence against children, and, in ensuring we have access to good quality medicines and health care. All of these are important to the people of this constituency.
I have also had the honour of representing the Council itself to award a prize to the French town of Suresnes for its work in human rights, in democracy and the rule of law. It is a prize which has also been won in the past by the town of Coventry.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council is drawn from parliamentarians across the wider Europe including Russia, Israel and the Palestinians are associate members.