IfG warns Brexit could undermine devolution efforts

10 Apr 18

Brexit could cause “irreparable harm” to devolution efforts, a think-tank has warned.

The Institute for Government claimed in a report that Brexit has put devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland under “serious strain”. Existing tensions in the constitutional relationships between the UK and the devolved governments had been “thrown into sharp relief” by Brexit.

There are 153 policy areas currently exercised by the EU, but EU frameworks make it difficult to return these powers to the devolved capitals, the report warned.

This meant devolution is being undermined as the UK government wants London to be the default destination for these powers, for continuity purposes.

“For the UK government, centralising control has potential benefits for UK economic performance and makes it easier to conduct international negotiations,” the IfG said.

“But keeping powers at the centre will threaten the stability of existing devolution arrangements and could cause irreparable harm to the relationship between the devolved administrations and Westminster.”

The IfG called on Cabinet Office minister David Lidington to work with devolved administrations to make sure that the joint ministerial committee, which hosts dialogue between the prime minster and devolved leaders, has a fixed timetable of meetings.

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “We have undertaken a great deal of work to strengthen our relationships with the devolved governments as we prepare top leave the EU.

“The UK government recognises the need to review the existing intergovernmental structures and that is why at the most recent joint ministerial committee the prime minister put forward a proposal to do just that.

“The UK government will work in collaboration with the devolved administrations to review our structures and make sure they are fit for purpose in light of our exit from the EU.”

Read Alan Bermingham’s blog on Brexit and devolved government.

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