Brexit Minister Jeremy Miles has warned of a new crisis facing the UK and says the time is right to consider fundamental constitutional change post-Brexit.

First published:
2 May 2019
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Ahead of an appearance at a Four Nations conference on ‘Brexit, Devolution and Civil Society’ in Belfast, the Counsel General and Brexit Minister Jeremy Miles said:

“The decision to leave the European Union has already necessitated a step-change in the way in which the governments of the UK are required to work together. It has posed fundamental questions about the nature of our Union and its constitution – and indeed about whether it will continue to exist in its current form. Can the UK hold together, or will the tensions Brexit has created and exposed pull it apart?

“The statement by the Scottish First Minister last week serves to remind us that each of the 4 governments of the UK have a distinct perspective on our Union. The Welsh Government believes in the Union, but we believe it has to change. The need for change predates Brexit; the Welsh Government having articulated concerns about the UK’s constitution since at least 2012. And now, the decision to leave has thrown the need for fundamental change into sharper focus, not least because it has forced us to confront realities no one had really thought about before.

“Brexit needs to result in stronger forms of devolution: substantially enhanced powers for the devolved administrations in such areas as the environment, agriculture, fisheries and many more.  We will need to think about how we may want, or need, to legislate in relation to matters that were previously led by the EU.

“We set out our vision for the future of devolution and intergovernmental relations in a paper: Brexit and Devolution. We are calling for a UK Council of Ministers, and for better dispute resolution, including a proposal for drawing on independent arbitration. To help build the more robust structures we need, we recommended an independent secretariat, perhaps based on what already exists for the British Irish Council. And we call for a UK constitutional convention, to address the question of how the UK’s constitution needs to change.

“Our departure from the EU is creating a new and fundamental tension for our constitution and the relationships between governments. Resolution of this tension will become ever more pressing as we move from the negotiation of the terms of our departure, and into the negotiation of our future relationship with the EU, and the wider world.

“Of course we must continue to engage forcefully with the UK government to ensure Wales’ voice is heard in how this new working landscape is developed. If the constitution of the UK is to stand up to the pressures of Brexit and develop in a way which works for all, then Wales needs to be at the heart of this.”