After Britain leaves the EU, England could pose a serious threat to the integrity of the Union but there have been a number of interesting initiatives looking at English governments that could prevent this major constitutional crisis, Lord Salisbury has claimed.
By Martina Bet
10 July 2019
Meanwhile, the Tory leadership contest further exacerbated tensions, with a YouGov poll saying that 63 percent of the party’s mainly English membership would be happy for Scotland to become independent as a price for Brexit.
The Constitution Reform Group (CRG), an all-party project convened by former leader of the House of Lords, Lord Salisbury, is currently advocating for the Act of Union Bill – a ready-made Bill which includes proposals to stop this impending break-up and constitutional crisis.
Talking exclusively to Express.co.uk, Lord Salisbury argued that England is “the big question” once Britain leaves the EU.
The vast majority of English parliamentary constituencies apart from London voted to Leave in the 2016 EU referendum, arguably showing how political and economic power within England is largely London and city-dominated.
The Leave vote in England has therefore been seen by many as a wake-up call.
With devolution in 1997, the Parliament of the UK granted powers to the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly.
This means England is the only country of the United Kingdom to not have a devolved Parliament or Assembly as English affairs are decided by the Westminster Parliament.
Although this constitutional grey area has existed for years, the changes brought about by Brexit could highlight it even more.
Lord Salisbury said: “England is 85 percent of the whole in terms of population and it has the overwhelming economic power when you look at the south east of England.
“You have to say to yourself: ‘How is this elephant not going to roll over in bed and squash the Celtic Fringe?’
“This is why we are very interested in looking at the future governments of England.
“There have been a number of interesting initiatives looking at England, one of which is being led by our colleague Gisela Stuart.
“Another one is by another former Labour Cabinet minster John Denham, who has been using his position at the University of Winchester to think about the future governments of England.
“There is also another interesting body of work by Daniel Canadine by the British Institute.”
The CRG formulated and drafted The Act of Union Bill, which is currently awaiting its second reading.
In the meantime, the cross-party group is developing and expanding the clauses within the Bill and welcoming feedback from those interested in contributing.
So far, the Bill proposes two alternatives for a future governance of England.
A spokesman for the CRG said: “The first model is the creation of a directly elected English Parliament to deal with non-central areas.
“The second model provides for a regional devolution option whereby the UK Parliament would continue legislating both on central matters for the UK as a whole and on all matters for England.
“It would put the English Votes for English Laws system on a statutory basis by restriction.”
Talking about the Bill, Lord Salisbury added: “We think that our Bill can only be read if it is also seen as complimentary by the work of the future governments of England.
“All four parts of the Kingdom and England agree with the centre what powers are going to be exercised by the centre, but that should be by agreement.
“In this Bill, this agreement would be laid out and the Bill would see the surrender of all sovereignty from the centre to the four constituents’ parts of the Kingdom.
“Simultaneously, in the same piece of legislation the powers which had been previously agreed by the four parts with the centre would be reconfirmed by the centre.”
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