Today Oxford City Council is flying the European Union flag, and will fly the city flags of the five EU twin cities on consecutive days next week.
The flags are being flown as a mark of Oxford’s commitment to remaining an international and diverse city in the UK’s post-EU future.
Oxford’s EU twin cities are: Bonn in Germany, Grenoble in France, Leiden in the Netherlands, Padua in Italy and Wrocław in Poland.
An international city
With its internationally renowned university, Oxford has always offered a home to talented people from around the world. Despite its relatively small size the city has a strongly international population, with approximately 13% of the population from EU countries; currently over 30% of school age children in Oxford have a parent who was born outside the UK.
Oxford’s city twinning is a mark of its international outlook. Twin cities have provided cultural and business links that enrich Oxford’s life and economy, from international dance festivals, school visits and sporting competitions to exchanging skills and ideas between businesses.
Oxford has benefitted greatly from EU migration, with its hospitals and schools employing many EU professionals. Communities have benefitted from EU citizens in many ways including in charities, community centres and cultural groups all contributing to better life for all in the city.
Support for communities and EU citizens
Although today marks a change in the UK’s relationship with the EU, the City Council is working hard to ensure that the city continues to be a welcoming home to EU citizens.
The council and its partners are supporting EU citizens to apply for settled status in the UK, so that they can build a long-term future here. EU citizens have until 30 June 2021 to register for settled status and for most it will be simple to complete, but additional support is available for people who need it.
The council also launched a new campaign this week, #WeAreOxford, to build stronger, more positive communities after three years of Brexit uncertainty. The campaign will include £35,000 funding for activities that bring Oxford’s diverse communities together.
“Oxford was a strongly Remain city, with over 70% of people voting to stay in the EU, so today is a day many hoped to avoid. But it’s important to remember those that voted to leave too, and to make sure we work together to build a positive future here in the city.
“We’re flying the flags of our EU twin cities as a symbol of our ongoing ties, a sign of friendship and co-operation for our futures. I know the Oxford city flag will also be flying in Europe today, and I’m proud of the partnerships we’ve built.
“Oxford will always be a diverse city, with our internationally famous university, outstanding research and technology, and our rich cultural history. Despite the UK’s withdrawal from the EU we will remain proudly international, European and uniquely Oxford.
“Our twin cities provide our people and economy with a head start in building new post-Brexit links in Europe, and we will be working hard to develop stronger, deeper connections for the future of the city in Europe.”
Cllr Susan Brown, City Council Leader
“Bonn is proud of its 73-year partnership with Oxford. It so far is one of the oldest town twinning between England and Germany. We look back on many shared experiences and look forward to numerous friendships between Oxford and Bonn. The relationship that this partnership created after the years of World War II will continue in the aftermath of the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union.”
Brigitta Poppe-Reiners, District Mayor of Bonn
“Faced with climate change and social challenges, our cities are leading the way and taking action to build a sustainable and desirable future. The strong ties that unite Oxford and Grenoble are precious. We shall keep them growing!”
Éric Piolle, Mayor of Grenoble, France
“I am proud of the ties that Oxford and Leiden have had since 1946. This makes it one of the oldest city links in the world. The Leiden-Oxford city link existed before there even was a European Union. Therefore the British leaving the European Union will not change the bond and friendship between our twin cities. That is why the City of Leiden will raise the Oxford flag on 31January and 5 February.”
Henri Lenferink, Mayor of Leiden, Netherlands
“Our twinning with Oxford remains more solid than ever, and the "Brexit" will certainly not interrupt a path of collaboration between two very similar cities in many respects, first of all that of openness to the world, international relations and dialogue. A strong bond that also involves our two universities, both with centuries of history and international prestige. Beyond the reasons that have led the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, I am convinced that, as Queen Elizabeth also said, "diversity is a strength, not a threat". I assure Oxford friends that our bonds and collaborations will continue to grow in the future.”
Sergio Giordani, Mayor of Padua