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Ever since the Blair government introduced asymmetric devolution in the UK, it has been likely that the process of comparison — e.g., different degrees of devolution between Scotland and Wales — would generate discontents requiring a new constitutional foundation if the UK is to survive as a state. Those discontents are now being revealed and will be reinforced by the process of leaving the EU. Already Westminster is reduced to “negotiating” with devolved regional powers over the political future.

If we are to prepare for a future outside the EU, then the whole country — and not least the political class itself — needs a constitutional education. Today that education is sorely deficient. For a country with a constitution essentially historical in character, decline in the teaching of history is a disaster. For it means that the younger generation has little grasp of the difficulty of creating and maintaining representative institutions. That lack of historical knowledge joined to the growing impact of the internet means that the young often seem to prefer a direct democracy — something that corresponds to their experience of expressing opinions online and getting immediate reactions to those opinions. Constitutional literacy has suffered as a result.

One example should make that clear. In discussions on both sides of the EU debate two words — “centralisation” and “federalism” — are often used as if they were synonymous. But that is a dangerous confusion. For the chief object of a federal system is to limit centralisation — that is, to disperse authority and power within a single political system. Federal systems do, of course, differ over what is the correct balance between central authority and regional authorities. But what they have in common is an attempt to achieve a balance. That, I think, will now rapidly — and rightly — become the UK’s predominant constitutional concern.

Here we meet a final irony. Britain has consistently worked against centralising moves within the EU, moves sponsored frequently by France. Yet in recent decades, especially since the Thatcher government, the UK government has itself become excessively centralised — more so, perhaps, than any other European government. The virtual demise of local government’s autonomy and a concentration of power in the Treasury have changed the face of the British state. Some of the complaints that led to the Brexit vote may in fact have been complaints about these changes in the form of the British state.

Relying on the informal “manners” of the political class to preserve local and regional autonomy in the UK will no longer suffice. In that respect, the unwritten constitution has already failed. 
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untenured
November 1st, 2018
12:11 PM
At the end of WWll, the UK elected to choose the delusion of socialism which doesn't require the existence of a constitution. Eventually Alastair Campbell seems to have taken on the role of Lord Protector, giving us Tony Blair as the figurehead of a clone of the U.S. political arrangement. Unlike the U.S. which is responsible for the global currency and can do as it pleases, the U.K. has one of the myriad crypto-currencies, and can do nothing to arrest its descent to oblivion. Alastair Campbell is leading the successful Resistance to Brexit. He knows what's best and can ignore the ruination of the statelets of the EU that used to be serial devaluers, but now just stuff their worthless IOUs into the ECB's balance sheet. "Yet in recent decades, especially since the Thatcher government, the UK government has itself become excessively centralised." Just another way of saying the socialists are in charge. Take a bow Mr. Serwotka and all the like-minded servants of our country.

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