UKIP adopts an English parliament policy: great news, but is it too late to save the Union?

I’m delighted that UKIP leader Nigel Farage announced on Friday that his party now supports the creation of an English parliament. In so doing, he’s almost certainly secured my vote at the next general election. And I’m sure that many thousands of other supporters of democratic fairness to England will now also switch their allegiances to UKIP, including the growing ranks of Tory voters disaffected with their party leaders’ new-found europhilia and inaction on the West Lothian Question, which in the case of David Cameron represents a betrayal of promises made during his campaign for the Tory leadership.

The fact that a credible mainstream political party – the fourth-largest in England in terms of electoral support – is now backing an English parliament should mean the issue is discussed more frequently and seriously. And as UKIP chips away at the Tories’ support, this will apply considerable pressure internally on the Conservatives to do something about the West Lothian Question. (On that topic, I note in passing that I’ve drafted an amended version of my previous post on the ‘English Majority Lock‘ mechanism for dealing with the WLQ, which I’ve sent to Tim Montgomerie at Conservative Home for potential publication. Still waiting to hear back.)

Full details of the UKIP English-parliament policy have yet to be published, but it seems likely it will be along the lines of the proposals by Paul Nuttall, which are available here. Basically, this is a federal model involving separate parliaments for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland within a continuing sovereign Union. There would also be a Union parliament to deal with reserved matters such as defence, macro-economics and foreign policy; and the Union parliament would double up as a second house, providing scrutiny of legislation emerging from each of the four national parliaments.

In the UKIP document, it is spelled out clearly that the primary aim of the policy, alongside democratic fairness for England, is to preserve and stabilise the Union state, which would be unsustainable the longer English people’s grievances about asymmetric devolution and unfair public spending are not addressed. While I absolutely welcome the UKIP change of direction, and will be voting for UKIP and backing their support for an English parliament in any way I can, I do wonder whether it’s already too late to be pushing for a federal UK. For the present at least, there appears to be an unstoppable momentum towards Scottish independence, and I’m not sure that any sort of federal solution that preserves sovereignty with the UK parliament and state has any chance of being supported north of the border.

Or south of the border, for that matter. I’ve written before that I think a solution that stops short of full sovereignty for England will not satisfy English people’s growing aspiration for integral nationhood. For a start, an English parliament would eventually demand so much fiscal autonomy that this would be practically tantamount to de facto independence. I can’t imagine that any English parliament worthy of the name would be content to have its budget handed down to it from a Union parliament while the vast majority of taxes raised in England continued to wing their way into the Treasury and, doubtless, would continue to subsidise higher spending in the Union’s other nations. Ultimately, I feel the only way any sort of enduring Union can be secured would be through confederalism (which involves full sovereignty for each of the Union’s nations) rather than a federal but sovereign UK. This might also offer Scotland an option for remaining within a much looser UK, akin to existing SNP ideas around ‘independence lite’.

Despite these reservations, I’m going to get fully behind the UKIP policy. It’s the only one on the table, and even if it never works out in practice, it’ll move the debate forward and take the argument to the unionist parties. So well done, UKIP: you’ve just done yourselves and England an immense service!

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4 Responses

  1. So the Tory party leaders’ slavish devotion to Brussels is new-found? Sorry, but they’ve been enthusiastic supporters of the pan-European project for decades. Remember, it was Judas Heath who took us into the EEC, without so much as a ‘by your leave’, and Thatcher and Major made no attempt to take us out or even give us an in/out referendum.

    As for devolution, I’m sure sombody (Tam Dalyell?) said it is a motorway to independence, with no exit roads. As an English Nationalist, I certainly won’t complain if the ‘Union’ breaks up and we have a confederation (similar to the Nordic Council?), but I’ll be voting UKIP for now, as they’re the only game in town if you live in England and oppose the elected dictatorship of the LibLabCon.

  2. I suppose we should be grateful that UKIP is moving away from the policy they had at the last election, of having Westminster mps from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland cover devolved matters because there wouldn’t have been enough of them to carry out the powers allocated. The policy was barking.
    Some people in England want to have
    It both ways. They ignore the fact that the numbers of English people living elsewhere iin the UK is significant and that their votes are affecting the composition of the devolved legislatures under PR. 8% of the population of Scotland is English, very close.to the 9% of seats taken by mps from Scotland constituencies at Westminsterat present and enough to play a crucial role in rejecting a yes vote in any SNP independence referendum

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