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DUP's Foster backs 'patriotic charter' to enhance Union


DUP leader Arlene Foster has backed a "patriotic list" of measures to help strengthen the Union that includes making Remembrance Day a bank holiday and setting up a new cultural institution for Northern Ireland.

Other proposals include an official examination of the case for a bridge between Great Britain and Ireland, a review of how the Government can promote the province as it marks its centenary in 2021, and allowing county flags on car number plates.

The paper from the centre-right Policy Exchange think tank also suggests the introduction of tourist taxes with funds raised spent in local areas, the creation of a Council of UK Civic Leaders and analysing whether Government departments could move outside London.

The Boris Johnson-led Government should look at strategies to "modernise the United Kingdom" and respond to a "nationalist and separatist agenda" brought about by Brexit, the Unleashing the power of the Union document said.

In a joint statement issued by former First Minister Mrs Foster and Tees Valley's Tory mayor Ben Houchen, the pair said: "Boris Johnson made clear his commitment to the Union - the 'Awesome Foursome' as he put it. We know first-hand the talent that is spread across the UK and welcome the Prime Minister's promise to help unlock this potential.

"Today's excellent Policy Exchange report offers a blueprint for modernising the country."

The document urges the Government to "consider how it can support the building of cultural institutions in places which currently have poor access to culture".

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"This could include building new parts of existing institutions, like the V&A Museum of Design which has recently been built in Dundee, or building entirely new institutions," it states.

"In Northern Ireland, for example, the UK Government could support the establishment of a new institution while Northern Ireland could facilitate the UK touring of exhibitions with themes ranging from the Titanic to Game Of Thrones."

It also argues that Westminster should "examine the business case for a toll-free road bridge between the Island of Ireland and Great Britain".


DUP leader Arlene Foster

DUP leader Arlene Foster

DUP leader Arlene Foster

It adds: "The UK Government should announce a review of transport connections between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, focusing on air travel, sea travel and the capacity of road networks around airports and seaports". It also suggested extending the Northern Ireland motorway network westwards and to the north coast.

Northern Ireland's centenary is set to be marked in 2021 with 'Expo 100'. Plans include a major exhibition in Belfast.

The Policy Exchange paper states: "Departments of the UK Government should review what it can do to support Northern Ireland to mark its 100th birthday. For example, the Department for International Trade can support trade promotion activities and Department for Culture, Media and Sport can support cultural tourism opportunities."

Remembrance Day is currently a public holiday in France, Belgium and the United States, while six of the 10 Canadian provinces also have a statutory holiday on November 11.

As well as suggesting the UK also makes the anniversary of the Armistice a non-working day, the think tank also suggests taking the lead from overseas on registration plates.

It said: "People should be able to display their local area's symbol or county coat of arms, flag, or similar, on their number plate, as is the case in many other European countries like Germany, France and Switzerland.


Tory Tees Valley mayor, Ben Houchen

Tory Tees Valley mayor, Ben Houchen

Tory Tees Valley mayor, Ben Houchen

"For many people, their identity is strongly attached to where they live and where they were brought up. This can be seen in the way people support their local football team. Providing people the opportunity to display their civic pride would be a positive way for people to express local patriotism in much the same way."

The Broadcasting Act - which allows the Government to stipulate sporting events are broadcast on free-to-air television - should also be looked at, with access to sporting events widened "as part of a strategy to modernise the UK", the report said.

It added: "One only has to look at the impact having the Women's Football World Cup on the BBC has had for women's football - the peak audience of England's semi-final was 11.7 million people - and then compare it to the Cricket World Cup on subscription TV which, despite it being hosted in England and Wales, passed by largely unnoticed by the public until the final was broadcast on free-to-air television at the last minute."

Bids from the UK and Ireland for the men's football World Cup in 2030 and women's World Cup in 2027 should also be supported, it said. "As part of their support for each bid, the UK Government should help to fund the redevelopment of stadia across the UK," the report added.

"The objective should be ensuring that Fifa Football World Cup matches can be hosted in every corner of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland."