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Cornish National Minority

On 24 April 2014, the UK Government officially recognised the Cornish as a national minority under European rules for the protection of national minorities. The decision to recognise the unique identity of the Cornish now affords them the same status under the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM) as the UK's other Celtic people - the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish.

Being recognised as a national minority means that the Cornish have the right to express, preserve, share and develop their distinct culture and identity. Cornwall Council and its partners have been working hard, with limited resources, to raise awareness of the Cornish as a national minority and to encourage the UK Government to fulfil its responsibilities so that the Cornish are treated equally with other Celtic nations. Five years on from recognition, much has been achieved in Cornwall but there is still more to do.

The FCNM is one of the most comprehensive treaties designed to protect the rights of persons belonging to national minorities. The UK Government became a signatory to the treaty on 1 February 1995. The treaty was ratified on 15 January 1998 and entered into force on 1 May 1998. Parties to the Framework Convention undertake to promote the full and effective equality of persons belonging to minorities in all areas of economic, social, political and cultural life together with the conditions that will allow them to express, preserve and develop their culture and identity.

In early 2014, Cornwall Council produced a paper summarising why the Cornish should be recognised as a national minority and in the autumn, the UK Government requested that the Council of Europe update the Framework Convention. The decision to recognise the Cornish was welcomed by the FCNM Advisory Committee.  

Cornwall Council has produced a bite-sized guide to what recognition of the Cornish as a national minority means in the context of the Framework Convention. 

Compliance with the Framework Convention is monitored by the Council of Europe. Signatories to the treaty are required to submit reports to the Council every five years. The Government has complied with four reporting cycles, recognising the Cornish as a national minority in its fourth compliance report which was submitted to the Council of Europe on 26 March 2015. A Council of Europe delegation visited Cornwall in March 2016 and in February 2017 the Council of Europe published its Fourth Opinion compliance report, followed by a UK Government commentary.

The UK Government is currently compiling its fifth cycle report and the Cornish Minority Working Group has provided the Government with its input

Whilst the onus is on the UK Government as signatory to the treaty to support and promote compliance with the Framework Convention, Cornwall Council does all it can within the context of limited resources and the small Cornish Cultural Fund to promote compliance.

Cornwall Council's Constitution and Governance Committee has agreed the creation of a Member-led Cornish Minority Working Group to focus on Cornish Minority Status and compliance with the Framework Convention.  

In June 2016 the UK voted to leave the EU. This caused concern among some community groups about whether the Council of Europe's protection of national minorities would still be upheld after the UK leaves the EU and whether the UK Government will be committed to ongoing support for the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

Cornwall Council contacted the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government on these questions. On 13 February 2017 they confirmed that:

The Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities is a Council of Europe instrument, and has nothing to do with the European Union. The UK ratified the Framework Convention in 1998 and this will be unaffected by the UK leaving the EU.