New report shows Brexit creating significant tensions between Westminster and devolved and local government

Brexit raises profound questions about the internal economic and political organisation of the UK, a new report by academic think tank The UK in a Changing Europe has found.

The report – Brexit: local and devolved government – underlines tensions between London and the devolved administrations. The Scottish and Welsh Governments see the EU Withdrawal Bill – which brings EU competencies back to the UK – as a power grab by Westminster. The Welsh Government has been battling to resist what it sees as a substantial potential erosion of Welsh self-rule.

The report finds that for 40 years the autonomy and scope of English local authorities have been reduced. The EU referendum was seen by the English as a means of expressing themselves.

The vast majority of Brexit supporters in England are willing to sacrifice the UK’s union to achieve their key aim: 81% of Leavers and 87% of Conservative Leavers are willing to de-stabilise the Northern Irish peace process to achieve Brexit and 88% and 92% respectively are prepared to countenance Scottish independence for Brexit.*

Brexit is proving inherently disruptive to the fragile constitutional settlement between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. The absence of an executive in Stormont makes it harder for the province to gain effective representation in the ongoing talks.

The report is being launched to coincide with The UK in a Changing Europe’s conference Brexit: local and devolved government, which is taking place today at Royal Institute of British Architects, London.

Keynote speakers include Lord Heseltine, Lord Kerslake and Bernard Jenkin MP. Other speakers include Sir John Curtice, Lisa Nandy MP, Local Government Association chair Lord Gary Porter and Professor Tony Travers.

Brexit presents significant economic challenges to the UK’s cities and regions, the report finds. British cities will see a fall in economic output as a result of leaving the EU because of the loss of trade.

Those in the south of England will be hardest hit due to the increase in tariff and non-tariff barriers, however, just like in the aftermath of the 2008 recession, they are likely to recover quicker than other parts of the country.

Findings show the impact of Brexit is likely to be much harsher in economically weaker regions, resulting in even greater regional imbalances. Brexit will exacerbate the relative decline experienced in places that voted most heavily for it.

Contributors argue in favour of greater empowerment of cities and regions.

Professor Anand Menon, director of The UK in a Changing Europe, said: “While the UK’s new relationship with the EU receives almost all the attention, this report sheds light on the domestic challenges that Brexit poses.

“MPs and civil servants face significant challenges when it comes to adopting the internal structures of the UK to deal with Brexit.”

The views expressed in this analysis post are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the UK in a Changing Europe initiative.

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