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Bright Blue Scotland, the independent think tank for liberal conservatism, has today published new research, entitled Our still United Kingdomproposing new constitutional arrangements for the UK after Brexit.

The report, authored by Murdo Fraser MSP, argues that current constitutional arrangements – including Joint Ministerial Committees establishing 24 new post-Brexit Common Frameworks – are proving frustratingly inadequate. The report claims that if further constitutional reforms are not introduced, there is a risk of inflaming support for separatism in different parts of the United Kingdom.

The report rejects moving the UK towards a federal system that is seen in Australia or Canada, but instead proposes a quasi-federal settlement for this country which could also finally solve the ‘West Lothian Question’ and reform the House of Lords.

The report makes four main proposals to achieve a new post-Brexit, quasi-federal UK:

  1. A new Statute or Charter of Union. This new Act of the UK Parliament would declare the creation of a quasi-federal state, and provide in law for the UK’s intergovernmental machinery.
  2. A new Senate representing different parts of the UK. The House of Lords as it currently exists should be abolished and replaced with a new Senate, or Upper House, representing different parts of the UK, predominantly if not entirely elected, and fulfilling the role both of a revising chamber and as a counterweight to the House of Commons.
  3. A new UK Council of Ministers. The establishment of UK Common Frameworks requires the replacement of the existing Joint Ministerial Committee system with a new UK Council of Ministers, representing component parts of the country.
  4. A new English Grand Committee. In the absence of significant further devolution or moves to federation within England, there is a need for England as a whole to be represented within the new UK Council of Ministers, with representatives elected by the English Grand Committee.

Commenting Murdo Fraser MSP, author of the report, says:

“Our departure from the EU will require new processes, and structures, to be created within the United Kingdom. With nationalists in different parts of the United Kingdom seeking to use Brexit uncertainty for their own political ends, it is important that unionists have a coherent response. So it is time to reform our government structures to create a ‘quasi-federal’ United Kingdom.”

“Introducing a UK-wide Senate delivers the long-awaited and overdue reform of the House of Lords, giving a better balance to the UK Constitution and protecting the interests of the nations and regions furthest from London.”

“A new English Grand Committee would finally resolve the West Lothian question, allowing the people of England for the first time a proper voice within the institutions of the UK, distinct from that of the UK Government.”

“A new quasi-federal settlement can mitigate concerns that exist in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and also are growing in many parts of England, about an over-centralised state where, despite asymmetric devolution over a period of two decades, there is still pressure for more power to be passed down from the centre.”

Commenting Ryan Shorthouse, Director of Bright Blue, says:

“Our departure from the EU provides the impetus to introduce important governmental and constitutional reforms to create a ‘quasi-federal’ future for the four nations of the Union.”

“Notwithstanding the difficulties and divisions Brexit has created, it does offer an opportunity for overdue democratisation and modernisation of key institutions of the Union.”