The United Kingdom is a unitary country. It has four states, and each state has its history, pride and identity. During the British Empire era, all states came together under the United Kingdom and the Union Jack with elements reflection each state was created. London, Westminster was an influential capital to rule almost 25 per cent of the globe and dominated all over the world, including member states of the United Kingdom. The British Empire has ended; however, there is still some influence that exists, and Westminster is still dominating the member of states. Therefore, there is a strong voice for the independence of Scotland, Independence of Northern Ireland and more devolution of power to Wales. Currently, Brexit process is igniting independent demand or disbanding of the union of the United Kingdom. Also, there is no codified constitution which is binding to the Union, which could help to keep in the union, an absence of written constitution will make easier to disband or exit from the United Kingdom. It is an abnormal situation of the UK and should not be late to response in this crisis. On this essay, the most suitable solution will be discussed, which could be the federalism system.
What is Federalism?
Federalism is a system where power will be shared between the state government and central government. Most of the common power will be with the State government, and some important powers will be held by the federal government such as defence and war declaration, money printing, Foreign policy, foreign trade agreement. The state government will retain the power for public safety (police), run the local government, trades within a state and education system. Few powers will be shared between federal/central and state government such as levying of taxes, punishment, election, borrow money etc. It will give key elements of self-pride, ownership, it is by the people, for the people, and that will make peace and stable. If there is not define power that should belong to states or federal government, that depends on the type of the federal system. Some countries came to unite because of attack threat from others, such as Switzerland and the United States; those countries states have more autonomous power as a confederal. Those countries who have to address ethnic groups crisis or have to make inclusive government they establish the federal system, considering that the central government is in the dominant power. Dr Anderson states on his theses “multinational federalism as an innovative political model designed to alleviate some of the most pressing tensions and problems encountered in plurinational contexts.” (Anderson 2018, p8). Federalism is the solution for plurinational crises, and also it is the best prevention to separate the country or prevent the confrontation. In practice, marginalised groups such as ethnic minority, women, disabilities are also well accommodated in the federal system because of federalism conceptual idea is the inclusiveness.
What are the problems in this current system?
Scottish National Party Leader, Nicola Sturgeon addressed publicly after the general election results in 2019, and she said, “no right to stand in the way of another Scottish independence referendum…” (BBC, 2019, bbc.com) because SNP won overwhelmingly in Scotland which indicates that the majority of Scottish people want independence. She clearly, stressfully states that Scottish people have their own choice either remain in the UK union or independent, there is no authority with Westminster. It was a big shock to the UK people because people are celebrating to PM Boris Johnson victory and waiting for PM Johnson’s victory speech.
In his first term premiership, PM Johnson visited Scotland. During that time Scotland secretary, Mike Russell said; “I think at the present moment, then the likelihood is that Boris Johnson’s Prime Ministership will be the last prime ministership of the UK as it presently exists.” (Williams, 2019, abc.net.au). It made significant concern; however, it is almost too late to keep Scotland in the UK union. During the Brexit execution, ignoring to Holyrood voice again, Westminster is not accepting the 2nd referendum process, and that is leading uncertainty. The UK is on the process to withdraw from the European Union, and Scotland is willing to withdraw from the UK union and join the EU.
Before the UK general election, EU Council President Donald Tusk said Brexit is the true end of the British Empire. (brusselstimes.com, 2019). Mr Tusk’s statement is indicating that Scotland will be independent and join the EU. If Scotland becomes independent, Northern Ireland may also seek independence too because of geographical difficulties and division of Irish people. Protestant people are in favour of the UK union, and Catholic are willing to be independent, ultimately England and Wales only may remain together. If the UK became weaker or less powerful country than overseas domination and role will be limited. The UK’s Gibraltar, Falkland island owners’ issue could be raised. The most powerful countries are indirectly involved in smuggling weapons to third world countries. If the UK converted as a less powerful country, then unofficial smuggling privilege will end. There are arising many issues at this movement, such as deeply divided society in the Brexit issue. International influences are narrow down. British imperial and colonised feeling is remaining the same as the 19th century but in the ground reality, is different.
People believe that Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are economically weak because of London. They think most of the economic institutions are centralised in London. If they get independent, they will do better than the current economy, especially when Scotland discovered the 20 billion barrels gas reserve in 1969. Scottish are confident to be independent. Northern Ireland has always been divided for a long time because of faith and belief.
There are much-unexpressed exploitation, domination and humiliation, that is affecting the whole society. Linguistically everyone has to respect all languages and have to protect, should not marginalise any; Gallic, Welsh, Minax, Cornish, Ulster-Scots, Norman French, Irish and Scottish language are British diversity and property. All languages have to be socially fair and equal. The UK government should reflect all faith in proportion wise in Westminster.
Why should the UK change the political system?
During the Scottish referendum in 2014, PM David Cameron proposed that a proper federal structure must be created for the UK. And after the referendum, tax and welfare matters are improved but not economic and political matters. According to his proposal, union states are waiting, but it’s getting late and start demanding for independent rather than a federal system.
“resisting further devolution endangers the union. If the 2014 referendum becomes a close-run affair, one of the factors that could tip the Scottish people towards endorsing separation is a sense of hostility from the English.” (Montgomerie, 2012, theguardian.com). Before demanding independence, if the federal system was adapted than the ownership or value of union may be different. It is now in the second level and still denial to have federalism or rejection for the second referendum in Scotland, the situation may cause violence and in the worse case could revolt or trigger a civil war.
In the UK history, there was a federal system proposed by Mr Winston Churchill, MPs of Dundee in 1912. Also, he proposed for England regional parliament and devolved region should be Yorkshire, Lancashire, London and the Midland as part of the Federal United Kingdom. The UK has a special relationship with the USA as a member of Five Eyes, and the USA is the first Federal country in the world, it was established in 1776, that may affect the UK. The UK devolution has begun with Government of Ireland Act in 1914. There was further decentralisation of power in1997 after the referendum in Scotland and Wales. Northern Ireland Assembly formed in 1998, the Scottish Parliament and National Assembly for Wales was established in 1999 and coming on 6 May 2020, Wales Assembly will convert to Parliament. (Deans, 2020, bbc.co.uk). This is how the devolution process has unfolded so far, and this process is continuing.
Demand of federalism
The Liberal Democrat party declared on the manifesto about the federal system in the United Kingdom. “Liberal Democrats want home rule for each of the nations of a strong, federal and united United Kingdom.” (Libdem 2019, Manifesto, p83). This party is very much clear about the UK future and all unions of states; Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England. Ms Kezie Dugdale, who was the leader of the Scottish Labour Party advocating for federalism. She said is an interview;
“I have always believed in a federal solution for the UK. At the conference, I’m going to ask my party to back that in a motion which would lead a Scottish Labour Party advocating federalism across the whole of the UK.” (Shannon, 2017, holyrood.com).
She urges to labour party and all to understand federalism. Federalism, devolution, decentralising is debated more in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales because they got the actual pain and problem.
Possible future threat or danger:
There are undeclared problems of nativism, where people believe this land is only for who created/born here since long-time. Another issue is Irredentism, where people believe migration people should have to return their own location, respectively. They both make stronger nationalist, and there are some nationalist political parties as well. On the other hand, there are multi religions Muslim 4.4 per cent, Hindu 1.3 per cent, Sikh, Jews, Buddhism is less than 1 per cent, and Pagans are roughly 56 thousand. (Census, 2011, ons.gov.uk). It shows that the UK is a multi-cultural, multi-religious and multi-ethnic country and for that reason, federalism in the best solution for the UK. Dr Anderson alluded in an article; “Since the end of the Cold War, there has been an increased use in federalism as a tool of conflict resolution.” (Anderson, 2017, federalism, vol 1). Many countries are adopting the federal system because of ethnically heterogeneous conflict. To accommodate all groups, they have to be given self-governing power up to a certain level, and a certain number of power and only special powers reserved by the federal government will be the best options. Nevertheless, the federal-state is the first step towards independence as well, but it depends on federal government’s role and response.
The UK doesn’t have a physical conflict between nations; however, there is a high demand for more devolution or independence. It’s all peaceful demand, if not handling in the right manner, at the right time, the situation might worsen. No one likes to demand with violence. For that reason, it is the right time to address the UK political issue. There is a sign from the EU parliament, right after the UK general election result in 2019, which indicates a path for independent Scotland. Catalan leaders were recognized as EU Lawmakers, (Press, 2020, nytimes.com) that means Scotland could get direct access to EU parliament in future, as a consequence, Scotland independence movement is more powerful than what we expected.
How should be the federal system?
After the end of the British empire, it is necessary to rearrange the own political system because during the empire, the focus was on the globe and homeland issues were in shadow. Now it is time to rearrange the political system and make all to fair and equal. Luckily, the existing UK government institutions are closer with the federal system because Scotland has its own Parliament Holyrood and own pound sterling currency as well. They do make tax and welfare law and rules themselves through the Parliament. Ireland has own Assembly in Stormont and Wales has own National Assembly for Wales Senedd, all most institution are in place except England parliament have to establish, and Westminster has to convert to Federal parliament. The federal system is a sharing power system; therefore, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England’s national Assembly should have to share power with the federal Parliament. Within the federalism norms, power and responsibility are distributed fairly. Federalism makes sure no one feels oppressed, and no one should be in supremacy feeling — respect others value and respect to each other.
There is some restructuring proposed map for federalism. A proposal of six states Cornwall, England, London, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales. There is another ten states proposal as well such as England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Cornwall, London, Isle of Man, Channel Islands, Orkney and the Shetland Islands. (Houseofhess, 2014, deviantart.com). There could be many differences in research and finding; however, existing four unitary states converted to federal states would be preferable; in this scenario, only have to establish the National Assembly of England. Apart from that, all the system is in place. On top of restructuring the federal parliament, opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn proposed that House of Lords could be Senate. (Sheppard, 2017). Other federal countries are practising that the upper house should be the representation of all ethnic groups. If the Lower house proposed any legislation to affect any ethnic, custom or belief then related ethnic expert member/lords should have to advise or stop that draft legislation, that is an additional responsibility of ethnic representative. The lower house always has executive power; however check, and balance is paramount. A federal government with mixed-member proportional (MMP) or alternative vote (AV) or single transferable vote (STV) electoral system will be the best options for better British democracy.
In conclusion, the UK was more focus over the world; during the empire commitment, there was a different scenario with combined power efforts. But time and role have changed; therefore, it’s necessary to decolonise the imperial supremacy in thought. It’s essential to replace imperial views over the state’s members of the union. It is time to rearrange government system from unitary to federal. Let’s make PM Johnson the last Prime Minister of the UK union. Historically, the British empire and great pride were built jointly; it’s now time to make a more prosperous Federal United Kingdom together. The federal system is the best solution to the current crisis.
Date: 17 January 2020
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Date: 17 January 2020