So far, Brexit has done nothing except create more tensions between England and the other UK nations. Majorities in Scotland and N Ireland voted Remain. A second Scottish independence referendum is being discussed seriously, and the impact of Brexit on the Good Friday agreement is very uncertain. Welsh lawmakers are predominantly Remainers, and have expressed concerns about Welsh voices not being heard.
In response, Theresa May has promised that the UK nations will be fully heard and consulted with. However, since this promise, she has appointed the newly-formed Brexit cabinet committee. This is composed of 12 English Conservative MPs, all of whom represent constituencies in England. The committee will call upon the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish secretaries only as required. The latter also represents a constituency in England. Absent these secretaries, the majority of the committee will be Leave campaigners.
The net result of this is that the Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish executives can ask for ad hoc meetings with David Davis, (Brexit Secretary), Theresa May, and their corresponding secretaries of state. But they will have no direct say in the nitty-gritty of the development of Brexit policy, either in full cabinet or the Brexit cabinet committee. The cabinet itself is entirely composed of MPs with constituencies in England, save for the Welsh and Scottish secretaries.
So today’s publication by the Institute for Government which warns of a “full-blown constitutional crisis” (see article link below) should not be too much of a surprise. The Institute says that relations between UK nations will be seriously damaged unless leaders of all 4 nations are involved in agreeing the “core planks” of the UK Government’s negotiating strategy, ahead of the Article 50 trigger.
Theresa May’s mandate to pursue any specific Brexit strategy, directly and also through her ministerial appointments is wafer-thin at best, given that the current government was elected on a Remain manifesto under David Cameron, not her.
It is absurd to imagine that a Leave-leaning committee made up almost entirely of English Conservative MPs appointed by Mrs May can fairly represent and take on board the views of all 4 nations on an absolutely colossal and explosive issue like Brexit. The fact that our constitution permits this is intolerable.
Mrs May needs to think long and hard about what a United Kingdom of 4 nations means to her in practice, when it comes to law-making. She has the power to set up a cross-UK, consultative system which means that she and her ministers will not impose a solution on the UK countries, and also that those countries will be involved in the detail of the Brexit policy-making process. Her ongoing failure to do this is another nail in the nail-infested coffin of the current UK.