Unlock Democracy: Reliant on the kindness of a Tory Government
Unlock Democracy Part one: Reliant on the kindness of a Tory Government.
Interesting report out this week by Unlock Democracy detailing the democratic problems that Brexit has unleashed. The report was published under a Creative Commons license so over the course of three blogs I intend to reproduce the parts relevant to the devolved administrations. Regular readers will be familiar with these issues but it is nice to have them from an independent source.
Unlock Democracy: A Democratic Brexit
Brexit has served as a stark reminder that devolution remains the gift of Westminster.
Both Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU, and all of the devolved administrations have lobbied the UK government to remain in the single market. But neither the devolved legislatures nor the devolved governments have any statutory powers with which to influence the Brexit negotiations.
International relations and treaty making are powers reserved for the UK government alone, and so unlike Westminster, the legislatures in Holyrood, Cardiff and Stormont will not even formally have the opportunity to object to ratification of the final deal. All national, and even some regional, parliaments in the EU will have a vote on the final deal but Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland will not. There are further questions about how the powers repatriated from the EU will be divided and how much of a say, if any, the devolved legislatures will have in this process
If the devolved administrations are sidelined in the Brexit negotiations, the risks for the future of the UK are very real.
When calling for a second Scottish independence referendum, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon cited the UK government’s unwillingness to compromise as the central reason for doing so. Although the government have said they want a soft border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, in practice this may be difficult to achieve should the UK leave the customs union
The Irish Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, has even called for a provision for fast-track EU membership for a united Ireland to be part of the Brexit deal. While these calls may have been made regardless of Brexit, the UK government’s handling of Brexit so far has strengthened the case for these call to be made, at least in the eyes of those supporting a united Ireland and an independent Scotland.
The Conservative’s decision to strike a deal with the DUP also risks inflaming tensions with Irish republicans should the Northern Irish Assembly not be reinstated and consulted during negotiations. Despite the claim that one of its key Brexit priorities is “strengthening the union” the UK government has done little to compromise or reach an agreement with the devolved administrations. It is looking increasingly likely that the good faith devolution agreement will be put to a serious constitutional test by Brexit.