UK ‘needs post Brexit devolution policy’

31 Jul 18

The government must update its devolution policy for when the UK leaves the EU in March next year, MPs have warned.

Without a clear understanding how different parts of England will be represented, the government risks a sense of disconnection of English people from the political system, the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee has said.

A report by PACAC, published today, said that UK devolution settlements were established in the context of EU membership and this “masked many key constitutional questions and ambiguities that will now become more pressing”.

The PACAC has called for a ‘Devolution Policy for the Union’, which would renew devolution arrangements in the wake of Brexit.

Bernard Jenkin, PACAC chair, said: “Leaving the EU will change the UK’s constitutional arrangements, so it needs a re-think.

“The present machinery for developing inter-governmental relations is flimsy, and there is nothing to give the various parts of England a say.

“Ignoring this risks the future relations within the UK.”

The report said that in the 20 years since devolution was introduced, it has “developed and deepened” in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

“The current programme of English devolution to combined authorities and mayors should be expanded and greater powers devolved,” the committee report said.

The report noted a “highly regrettable” lack of consultation with devolved governments over the EU withdrawal bills, but added that the committee was pleased that the final form of the bill addressed some concerns of devolved administrations.

The committee also suggested that plans should be drawn up to devolve powers to more rural areas.

When taking evidence, the PACAC found that “Whitehall has a tendency to hold on to power and that there is a continued institutional lack of understanding of devolution.”

Andrew Carter, chief executive of Centre for Cities - a charity supporting devolution to UK cities - said: “The most immediate task for government should be to prioritise devolution deals for the remaining big cities in England yet agree one, which would extend devolution to cover nearly half the population of England.”

In June, Manchester mayor, Andy Burnham called for further devolution of education policy to England’s devolved regions.

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