Mark Whitehead 31 July 2018

MPs call for ‘rethink’ of devolution after Brexit

MPs have called for more powers to be handed to English regions as part of a rethink of devolution after Brexit.

The all-party parliamentary constitutional affairs committee says the 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'.

They say it was 'highly regrettable' that there was little consultation with the devolved governments over the EU (Withdrawal) Bill, as this could have avoided much of the acrimony created.

The MPs warn that failure to address how the different parts of England will be represented risks 'a sense of increasing disconnection of the English people from the political system.'

They say the Government should publish a 'devolution policy for the union' setting out how different parts of England can be fairly and effectively represented — and consider devolving 'whole areas of competence and not piece meal powers' within England.

The committee's chair Sir Bernard Jenkin said: 'Leaving the EU will change the UK's constitutional arrangements, so it needs a re-think.

'We recommend the Government sets out a clear devolution policy for the Union as we leave the EU.

'Failure to do this just prolongs misunderstandings which are the basis for more conflict.

'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.'

In response, Andrew Carter, chief executive of Centre for Cities, said: 'This report is welcome recognition of the progress that has been made on the city region devolution in recent years, and the need to go further on this agenda as the UK leaves the EU.

'The most immediate task for Government should be to prioritise devolution deals for the remaining big cities in England yet to agree one, which would extend devolution to cover nearly half the population of England.

'We also back the Select Committee’s call for a systematic post-Brexit review of governance structures across the UK. It should have a working assumption to devolve policies and funding to the city or city region level wherever appropriate.'

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