Thursday 30 June 2016

Brexit: and devolution: "The moment for building a genuine movement for constitutional change might just be arriving."

When it comes to local politics, one of the very first concerns following the Brexit vote has been devolution:
Futures Forum: Brexit: and devolution in the South West

And the debate is really firing up:
Devolution could ‘come to a standstill’ following Brexit, says Centre for Cities
Brexit could provide opportunity for new models of devolution – CCN

... in London:
Sadiq Khan calls for more powers for London after Brexit vote | London Evening Standard

... and in the provinces:

Devolution concerns amid Brexit turmoil

29 June 2016 | By Sophie Barnes

Senior local authority leaders have warned devolution deals must not be overshadowed following the vote to leave the EU last week.

Kate Kennally, chief executive of Cornwall Council, said she was concerned areas currently trying to secure devolution deals are doing so for the wrong reasons. She said: “Now I’m watching how different devolution deals are coming and going I am nervous that places are trying to create something just to land a deal without a sense of place or purpose, and that is essentially problematic.”

East Anglia recently agreed a devolution deal with the government but weeks later the deal fell apart and the four councils involved have now created two separate deals. 

Post-Brexit devolution: an end to the “gift from Whitehall” model? | East Devon Watch

The debate reflects the "Town vs Country" divisions from the referendum:

What Brexit means for English devolution

Jo Casebourne 28 June 2016

Unlike the rest of England, the majority of the core cities in England voted Remain in the EU referendum. The result leaves three critical questions for English devolution: what will happen to the devolution deals process under a new Conservative Prime Minister and Chancellor; will cities be given a voice in the negotiation; and will government replace the funding for cities and disadvantaged rural areas that currently comes from the EU? 

Devolution concerns amid Brexit turmoil | News | Inside Housing

Devolution will no longer be a 'gift from Whitehall':

Brexit: a turning point for devolution

Simon Parker 27 Jun 16

The UK-wide vote to leave the European Union could usher in a moment of genuine constitutional change

Last week’s referendum was a turning point for the devolution agenda. Just as Scotland’s near miss on independence sparked the current round of devolution deals, so the decision to Brexit could spark a new wave of demands for change: and this time, the calls for more local and regional autonomy are likely to be sharper and angrier.

Commentators are rushing to point out that an out-of-touch London elite has not listened to the cries of pain from suffering regional towns and cities. Any plan to address the underlying reasons for the Brexit vote must start by recognising that the British model of economic development is not working for most people. While the capital and wider south east have boomed, regional centres like Birmingham have fallen catastrophically behind. The idea that our economic model can be fixed by the national elite that broke it in the first place seems fanciful. Politically, it will be hard to ignore the need for economic reform.

The need to fix regional economies will be compounded by the deep social divisions that the referendum has painfully exposed. Look at the map of the Brexit vote and London sticks out like a sore thumb; an island of Remainers in a sea of Brexit. Some will say that the capital’s sense of anger and grievance is due payback for decades of ignoring the rest of the country. This attitude will hardly reduce the emotional shock that many Londoners currently feel, an experience that will be replicated in cities like Bristol, Cambridge, Liverpool and parts of Manchester. At the same time, the shires are clearly on manoeuvres to ensure that they translate their political power within the Conservative Party into a more generous approach to devolution to counties, ideally without the troublesome requirement for a mayor.

There are two ways to make devolution happen. For the past few years we have been following what might be termed the Whitehall gift model. Local leaders negotiate with George Osborne and, if he likes what he hears, he passes them down a package of new powers. It is a model that is unlikely to work very effectively in a post-referendum world. Mr Osborne is arguably already a lame duck chancellor. Parliament and the civil service face years of Brexit-related legislative congestion. Why would devolution deals be high on their agenda?

If we stick with the gift model, then devolution will stall. Greater Manchester might have enough momentum to carry on, but places like Merseyside and the West Midlands may find themselves struggling to win more powers. The counties may find it even harder to make progress, especially if they remain mired in complex debates about local government reorganisation.

But Scotland did not win its devolved settlement by waiting for Westminster’s beneficence. Its political class mobilised the voters and civil society to forge a consensus for change, before steadily campaigning to make it happen. The SNP went even further, demanding the right to declare independence unilaterally though their referendum last year. The decision to leave has unleashed a sense of grievance across the country that will be hard to put back in the bottle. Local leaders have an opportunity to channel that feeling in the direction of greater local autonomy. The difficult truth is that leaving the EU will not in itself do much to address grievances rooted in two generations of de-industrialisation, especially if the process of leaving brings a recession with it. Parliament may be preoccupied with Brexit, but the country as a whole will be worried about jobs.

The time for gifts may be over, but the moment for building a genuine movement for constitutional change might just be arriving.

Brexit: a turning point for devolution | Public Finance
Post-Brexit devolution: an end to the “gift from Whitehall” model? | East Devon Watch

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