Rennie: Brexit stand off shows need for federal UK


Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has used a conference address to call for the UK Government to accept that Federalism is essential if the UK is to avoid future stand offs with the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish legislatures.

He called for beefed up common frameworks to improve governance across the UK and a greater role for the devolved legislatures in holding ministers to account for decisions taken over common frameworks in the aftermath of Brexit. 

His speech comes in the week that the Institute for Government called for stronger reporting mechanisms and warned with Brexit "the anticipated increase in the number of informal agreements between the UK government and the devolved administrations means that the four governments should think seriously about how to involve their legislatures more formally in these mechanisms." 

Mr Rennie commented: 

"The joint ministerial committees have barely met and when they have, too often UK ministers and their devolved counterparts just use it as an opportunity to grandstand in the press. The devolved administrations haven’t been involved in shaping the withdrawal position.

"The heart of the debate is how we have a UK-wide framework for devolved powers which is sensible for everyone involved.

"I think the answer is federalism; devolved administrations coming together to agree common frameworks. Most countries in the world do it and they can’t understand why the UK seems so incapable of undertaking modern, common-sense governance.

“It is in the interests of all, including the UK Government, to agree a formal mechanism to agree common approaches and to resolve disagreements. It isn’t sustainable for the UK Government to impose its will on everyone else every time there is a genuine disagreement. We need a structure that gives every legislature its place in the decision making. 

"The key to federalism is that the different administrations all may have different priorities and nuances within a framework. But they all have an eye and a care for the success of the whole.

"UK policy is weaker when it fails to promote joint action. It's time we took common sense steps to improve governance across the UK. That starts with putting some meat on the bones of joint ministerial committees and ensuring that legislatures have an enhanced role in scrutinising and pressing for measures that boost every part of the UK."


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