The arrival of a new Prime Minister in office has reminded us of how complicated our constitution has become in recent years. Theresa May has had to go to visit the First Minister of Scotland, the First Minister of Northern Ireland, the Prime Minister of the Irish Republic, the President of France and the Chancellor of Germany to discuss vital matters of UK national interest as well as of wider significance.
In “The Death of Britain?” book I wrote I explained how too much devolution at home would be destabilising to the Union it was meant to sustain, and how too much transfer of power to the EU would damage UK democracy and lead to more popular disillusion with government and politics. The rise and rise of the SNP in Scotland has underlined the first argument, with the arrival of almost a full slate of MPs in Westminster from Scotland wedded to independence. They will look to use any opportunity to make the case for independence, and see in the relationship with the EU one of the routes to adopt. The outcome of the referendum has underlined my second argument.
In all of the changes England was deliberately left out. England had no matching First Minister or formal political identity as Scotland enjoys. England was left off the maps of the EU, seen as a target for break up into regions that in many cases attracted little loyalty or support. The public voted down the idea of elected regional government in the North East, the one Labour dominated area at the time where the Labour government thought it would be supported.
As the new government pilots its way through Brexit and seeks to reassure all those of the current devolution settlement, it also needs to heed the voices of England. Scotland makes a lot of its wish to stay in the EU by a majority. Latest polls however, show no overall change in support for the union of the UK after the Brexit vote, to the disappointment of the SNP. England does not have a First Minister to remind the government that England by a convincing margin voted to leave the EU. Brexit is a Union matter and has to proceed as such. Other matters like the financial settlement within the UK are as much English as Scottish issues. England still needs more recognition in our democratic structure.
John Redwood is Member of Parliament for Wokingham