|Editorial Comment: Just a means of getting more money from England?|
The FM of Wales, Carwyn Jones, has launched the Welsh Government’s policy paper on Brexit & devolution. The paper proposes replacing the current Joint Ministerial Council (JMC) with a new UK Council of Ministers that would take forward negotiations, reach binding decisions and help resolve disputes.
The council, served by an independent secretariat (at what cost?) and a structured work programme, would ‘bring the 4 governments together to negotiate & agree binding UK frameworks in devolved areas where they are needed’, as well as considering non-devolved policies, such as state aid.
There will certainly be a need to discuss what powers (fishing, etc.) would be devolved after they return from Brussels, but as far as state aid is concerned, we already have a democratic way of apportioning it, with the UK Parliament, which represents all voters in the UK.
What Carwyn Jones seems to be proposing is a way for the devolved governments (with less than 20% of the population) to outvote England (with the other 80%), in how the money (mainly raised by English taxpayers) is apportioned with regards to state aid.
Other piratical issues to consider are:
*Who/what would represent England?
*What would happen (as is the present situation), the Northern Ireland Assembly was not functioning?
*What would happen if England didn’t agree with the other 3?
If the FMs of Wales and Scotland want to be ‘treated as equals’ on deciding such matters, then we could well see the English taxpayer decide that they are not prepared to be so generous when it comes to apportioning state aid in the UK. We could well see ‘English Votes for English Laws’ – EVEL – start moving towards ‘English Revenue for England only’ – EREO!
How easy it would be for Scotland & Wales to propose raising Inheritance Tax to get more revenue say, when their lower average property prices would mean their voters wouldn’t have to pay it!
One wonders if he would be as keen on such a idea if the Barnett formula was revised along the lines that, if the devolved parliaments/assemblies could be shown to be able to afford policies (free prescriptions & hospital parking, etc.) that England couldn’t, then the state aid should be reduced by the cost of those policies in the spirit of equality!
In reality though there is no point trying to ‘divvy up’ the Brexit £bns until we know how much & when! We might have to pay a ‘Brexit bill’ first.
The paper also proposes a convention on the future of the UK. The convention, chaired by a respected, independent figure, would ‘consider major questions which will face the UK once it is outside the EU and take evidence from all political parties, civil society and all parts of the UK’.
Let us start with the concept of finding a ‘respected, independent figure’ to chair the convention. The Scots, Welsh & Northern Irish would be loath to trust any English person and the English would probably feel the same about them. Personally as ‘a man of Sussex’ originally, I wouldn’t trust anyone north of Gatwick to be ‘independent‘ and that’s before we even introduce any political bias into the mix.
All politicians are, by definition, biased to some degree and. as for academics, 88% of them are left-wing (Is this why so many of them are ‘Remoaners’?), and so that rules them out. In addition, when you consider that the Remoaners and the Brexiteers wouldn’t trust each other and that any Religious leader would be suspected of favouring ‘their own’ (Northern Ireland) and/or being ‘politically naïve’.
Given the difficulty the Home Secretary had in finding an acceptable individual to head the (whatever happened to it?) Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (Government search goes to the ‘ends of the earth’ in hunt of impartiality), can you imagine the list of objections for any proposed chair for the convention?
Perhaps we could have a referendum on the subject of UK constitutional reform and exclude MPs from the debate?