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Invited written evidence to the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee: Devolution and exiting the European Union

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHouse of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committe
Subtitle of host publicationDevolution and exiting the EU: Reconciling differences and building strong relationships
Publisher or commissioning bodyHouse of Commons: London
DatePublished - 8 Aug 2018


1.1 This invited written submission focusses specifically on the implications that arise from European Union (EU) exit for the governance of England. It concentrates on a specific set of issues outlined in the Committee’s call for evidence that are pertinent to English devolution. More specifically, it examines (i) how the momentum behind English devolution might be affected by Brexit (ii) how an English voice might be represented in Brexit negotiations (iii) potential opportunities emanating from European withdrawal and (iv) the possible threats to English devolution posed by exiting Europe. My views are based on my own academic research that has examined English devolution for the past 20 years. Six central claims are made.

1.2 First, EU withdrawal has the potential to further marginalise or, by contrast, appease an increasingly disenfranchised ‘English political community’. Maintaining the momentum behind English devolution and ensuring that the English voice is heard in Brexit negotiations could offer an important opportunity to pacify perceptions of alienation and exclusion in parts of England.

1.3 Second, there are opportunities for the newly elected metro mayors to work with Government to ascertain what EU funds and programmes might be effectively managed by the combined authorities. Metro mayors would benefit from working together to speak with one voice to Government on the issue.

1.4 Third, spatial sensitivity and place-based policy solutions offer a fruitful way to accommodate the social and geographical divisions identified during the EU referendum. However, engaging the English tier is challenging due to significant variations in institutional arrangements and local governance capacity. Metro mayors are a good place to start, although a more comprehensive approach will be needed if all parts of England - including its ‘left behind areas’ - are to have a voice.

1.5 Fourth, Brexit offers an opportunity to reframe the English devolution debate in constructive ways and build upon some of the positive relations post the recent devolution deals. Where devolution deals have faltered, trust needs to be rebuilt. The Network of Local Enterprise Partnerships, that represents the 39 Local Enterprise Partnerships in England, might be employed to represent rural and coastal areas in Brexit discussions.

1.5 Fifth, despite a global trend towards decentralisation, evidence of its success remains inconclusive. Data suggests that the success of local initiatives are often hampered by an uncoordinated approach at the Centre. Whitehall’s propensity for centralisation and the differentiated approach to devolution that characterises individual government departments will need careful management.

1.6 Finally, Brexit is likely to make regional disparities worse and could lead to greater conflict between England’s territories for scarce resources. Robust inter-governmental relations that cover the whole of England will be required to ensure an equitable distribution of funds post EU withdrawal.

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