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First Minister warns UK could break apart unless it is rebuilt as a ‘solidarity union’

29 May 2023 2 minute read
First minister of Wales Mark Drakeford. Picture by Peter Byrne / PA Wire

Mark Drakeford, has warned that the UK could break apart unless it is rebuilt as a “solidarity union” where every citizen’s rights to public services and financial security are protected.

Wales’ First Minister told The Guardian that the social and political bonds that tie the different parts of the UK together have come under “sustained assault” from 40 years of neoliberalism, a trend launched by Margaret Thatcher in 1979 and then reinforced after Brexit by Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.

He said that the next Labour government needs to rebuild the rights of citizenship, including the right to affordable public services, the right to environmental protection, the right to consumer protection and the right to trade union protection.

Mr Drakeford is expected to expand on that stance at a conference in Edinburgh on 1 June hosted by Gordon Brown, which will explore Labour’s proposals for significant reform of the UK.

Brown’s proposals include scrapping the House of Lords and replacing it with an elected second chamber to represent the UK’s nations and regions.

He also proposes greater political and financial powers for Scotland, Wales and the English regions, and legally binding structures to guarantee the devolved parliaments in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Stormont cannot have their powers overridden by Westminster.

Disrespect

Mr Drakeford said that since Brexit, Anglocentric Conservatives in London have shown a “fundamental disrespect” for the Welsh and Scottish parliaments by imposing internal trade rules and by failing to recognise Wales and Scotland had autonomy over health policy during the Covid crisis.

He said that Rishi Sunak has shown greater respect towards the UK’s devolved nations “even if it doesn’t translate into very practical effects”.

In his speech on Thursday, Drakeford is expected to challenge the Brown commission’s position that Westminster would still retain sovereignty over the legislatures in Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh.

He said the reality now is that “sovereignty exists in four different places”.

He added: “What we should do is think of a United Kingdom in which sovereignty rests in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and then we choose voluntarily to pool that sovereignty back for certain important key shared purposes.”


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Hogyn y Gogledd
Hogyn y Gogledd
10 months ago

I think Mr Drakeford’s union could only be created by the voluntary accession of already independent states, each retaining the right to secede.

No form of devolution can deliver in the long term because, as we regularly see, the central power can override it on a whim.

Some1
Some1
10 months ago

A written constitution would provide some protection against the next Johnson.

Frank
Frank
10 months ago

Don’t bother Mark, the sooner the better we split up, achieve independence and get our correct share of the goodies held in the Treasury.

Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
10 months ago
Reply to  Frank

Be careful of what you wish for. As Brexit has shown, the spilt up means that all the benefits of group membership are lost thus all the Goodies in Treasury would remain there in England. Whilst I sympathise with your viewpoint and am part of the Independence Campaign, I think that we might do rather better financially under the Drakeford proposals along with a non-Tory PR elected Government in Westminster. In the meantime we need to make all the arguments for independence and persuade a whole lot more people to join YC. I presume that the Spooks have cracked the… Read more »

CJPh
CJPh
10 months ago
Reply to  Peter Cuthbert

What if it doesn’t, Peter? What if it keeps us, as we are currently and have been for centuries, at a marked disadvantage (which, frankly, is far more likely than the slow blossoming of our freedom – that’s never happened anywhere and never been outlined adequately even as a concept)? What if this slow rolling of resources, increased taxation and centralised control hits Wales the hardest, as every single policy since Henry VIII has? Crumbs at best, the brunt at worst. What if, as we saw in Yugoslavia, that a voluntary union of disparate nations simply doesn’t work, causing pain… Read more »

Kerry Davies
Kerry Davies
10 months ago
Reply to  Peter Cuthbert

In 1922 GDP per capita in RoI was 56% of that in the UK. In 2022 the GDP per capita in the UK was 38% of that in the RoI.
They also were too poor, too small and too stupid to go it alone. Drakeford’s analysis is fairly good but his solution is not brave enough.

Crwtyn Cemais
Crwtyn Cemais
10 months ago
Reply to  Peter Cuthbert

Cytunaf a chi, Peter Cuthbert (scroll down for English) : yn y cyfnod sydd ohoni / yn y tymor byr, mae angen i ni, Cymru, weithredu Realpolitik dyfalbarhaol a chyson er mwyn atgyfnerthi economi Cymru a sefyllfa wleidyddol Cymru y tu fewn i’r Deyrnas Unedig, ond wastad gyda’r nod o wireddu annibyniaeth rhag y Deyrnas Unedig yn y pen draw. ~ I agree with you, Peter Cuthbert: in the short-to medium term we, Wales, need to act with determined and constant Realpolitik in order to strengthen our economy and our constitutional position within the UK, but always with the ultimate… Read more »

CJPh
CJPh
10 months ago
Reply to  Crwtyn Cemais

Mwynha dy statws newydd ‘te – Citizen of the Wales Region: soon to merge with England-West (due to making things economically sustainable and equitable). Diw’r model yma ddim yn gwella ein sefyllfa economig (os unrhywbeth, mae’n sicrhau colledau enfawr achos y fframwaith brai mae’r fath gwledydd tu fewn). O rhan unrhyw cyfansoddiadau tu fewn y DU – papur yn unig os nad oes cytuno mewnol ac allanol – mae’n anodd iawn dychmygu y basai rhanbarthau Lloegr yn hapus gyda’n statws ar wahan fel cenedl ymysg rhanbarthau, neu y Cymry’n hapus gydai’i statws fel rhanbarth ac nid cenedl. Ma’ ‘realpolitik’ wedi’i… Read more »

Gareth
Gareth
10 months ago

Mr Drakeford seem to be under the delusion that UK Labour are a left wing party and will undo 40 years of neoliberalism, well, Tony Blair didnt and Starmer wont, as he refuses to support striking workers or alter current policing laws and accepts the current Tory EU stance. What we have here is fundamental opposites of ideolagy , in Cymru we are to the left, whereas in England it has always been to the right, with no sign of any change. We will never get what we desire by remaining in the UK, as it is what England want… Read more »

Richard Thomas
Richard Thomas
10 months ago
Reply to  Gareth

Although it does exist I don’t think England is as far to the right and Wales as far to the left as you’d like to think. The electoral system distorts and exaggerates the split. I don’t think the Welsh are an intrinsically leftwing people, it’s just that a large proportion of the population lives in areas of traditional heavy industry. Areas of similar industry in England, like South Yorkshire, are very left wing too. When we talk of England really it’s one part of England, the South East, that is sapping the life out of the rest of these Isles… Read more »

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
10 months ago

This sounds like a cat’s cradle of nonsense, get real…

CJPh
CJPh
10 months ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

…the question is does it come from Westminster’s little boy blue or our very own man in the moon?

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
10 months ago
Reply to  CJPh

Little discussion going on here as to where one would place N.C on the political spectrum and what does it see as its roll…a forum for passive revolution or a medium for instilling solidarity for non-unionist or thirdly a virtual table in a pub at the outer edge of the known world?

Perhaps Mr Llwyd could remind us as to the direction and method of travel to this promised land of Libertainia (not to be confused with a C17 pirate colony off the east coast of Africa)…

CJPh
CJPh
10 months ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

I find your confusion as to the differences between your Libertainia and the real one odd. Isn’t that our shining city on a hill? With added parrots and missing body parts, of course.

Neil Anderson
Neil Anderson
10 months ago

Mark Drakeford and Gordon Brown’s hopes of entrenching basic personal and constitutional rights beyond the reach of the next right-wing and anglocentric government in Westminster are likely to be in vain. Anyway, I’d much prefer to entrust the guardianship of my rights and our sovereign national rights in the people of Cymru rather than in perfidious Albion. Your report omitted that vaunted concept of ‘our collective security’ (The Guardian, 29 May 2023), no doubt a key element in Mr Drakeford’s thinking. I doubt whether many in Cymru wish to share in the future military adventurism of the UK, given Iraq,… Read more »

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
10 months ago
Reply to  Neil Anderson

Heddwch dros y byd…

Gwyn Hopkins
Gwyn Hopkins
10 months ago

Gordon Brown’s proposal to replace the House of Lords with an elected second chamber to represent the UK’s nations and regions equates the nations of Wales and Scotland (and Northern Ireland) with regions of England. Wales and Scotland deserve comparison with the other nation of Britain, namely England – not regions of England. Moreover, in his second chamber England will be as overwhelmingly dominant as in the House of Commons. The US second chamber – the Senate – has equal numbers from each State whatever their population. Likewise, the reformed House of Lords should have equal representation from the 4 home nations.   
 

Vyvyan
Vyvyan
10 months ago
Reply to  Gwyn Hopkins

Similarly in Australia, The least populous state (Tasmania) has the same number of senators as the most populous state (New South Wales) does.

Riki
Riki
10 months ago
Reply to  Gwyn Hopkins

Will never happen as England has never wanted equal footing. They want advantage after advantage!

Dr John Ball
Dr John Ball
10 months ago

I’m glad Gordon Brown is helping.
Is this the same Gordon Brown who promised untold riches for Scotland in return for voting no?
And remember Mark Drakeford’s predecessor, the not missed Carwyn Jones – he who rushed to Scotland (on a flight from Bristol incidentally) to campaign for a no in the Scottish referendum.
It’s not beware of Greeks bearing gifts. Beware of Labour bearing gifts.

CJPh
CJPh
10 months ago
Reply to  Dr John Ball

“Bois, quickly! The voter seem to think that they should have some sort of a say! They even think that Wales is a thing. Tell them, I dunno, something rights, something something, our future, something something buzz words and maybe they’ll shurrup and let us get on with sitting and doing nothing for the rest of our lives” – Mark Drakeford, Professional useless person, potential spine-transplant recipient (fingers crossed)

hdavies15
hdavies15
10 months ago
Reply to  CJPh

Sums it all up far better than any long winded analysis of a man who is becoming increasingly pointless.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
10 months ago
Reply to  hdavies15

Gentlemen, Gentlemen, fair play, this could be his farewell tour…

I know Gordon Brown means well but deep down I just wish he’d stay on Anthrax Island…

Last edited 10 months ago by Mab Meirion
Exmedsec
Exmedsec
10 months ago
Reply to  Dr John Ball

Gordon Brown – the man who sold the nation’s gold at a loss to buy Euros? The man who raided the best pension system in the world to waste it on vanity projects, who pumped billions into the NHS but not into frontline staff but in more management. Who was responsible for the Public Private Finance project that saddled hospitals with debts that will never be repaid. The man who underwrote an illegal war funded by the taxpayers. Emulate this failed chancellor at your peril…

Andy Williams
10 months ago

what about the devolution of water to Wales, should have happened six years ago. Still no sign of it happening.

Mawkernewek
10 months ago

Gordon Brown seems to want things both ways. Firstly promising to make devolution legally binding, so that Westminster can’t overrule the powers of devolved parliaments, and then saying that Westminster should retain sovereignty over the devolved parliaments, which would suggest having some way to overrule them?

Wynn
Wynn
10 months ago

I don’t mind being separate nations bobbing about in some sort of confederation, but I want Scotland sitting in the UN between Saudi and Senegal and Wales sitting across the room from us sitting between Vietnam and the Yemen. If it’s good enough for the 700,000 Luxembourgers on less than 1000 square miles of land then it’s good enough for both of us to be there. 

Mawkernewek
10 months ago
Reply to  Wynn

The problem with a confederation, with the individual nations delegating common policy areas including defence and foreign affairs to a federal body, is that if one of those individual nations has an absolute majority of population, then effectively the defence and foreign policy of the whole confederation is run entirely by the national parliament of that most populous nation. This isn’t a minimal thing, because foreign affairs, including foreign trade affects economics, it affects what rules and regulations you are able to have with products, certain tax things etc. such that the individual minority nations are still on a leash… Read more »

Wynn
Wynn
10 months ago
Reply to  Mawkernewek

Yup – you’ve got a point there- Yes to Independence no to confederation. Thanks

max wallis
max wallis
10 months ago

Mark Drakeford pushes aside the McAllister-RowanWilliams Commission (Independent Commission on the Constitutional Future of Wales, due to report at the end of the year. Perhaps they are a dead loss as they their interim report failed to grappel with the effect of Party whipping. Labour’s blocking of a Welsh Covid inquiry is a graphic example of avoiding accountability and embarassment of the main players. We are living with damage done to kids’ education in Wales, to the industrial sector and to NHS show by current waiting lists, because they chose “safety first” instead of the balanced science-led policy they proclaimed… Read more »

CJPh
CJPh
10 months ago

“What we should do is think of a United Kingdom in which sovereignty rests in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and then we choose voluntarily to pool that sovereignty back for certain important key shared purposes.”

We choose? You mean the respective governments, on a moment-to-moment whim, maybe even behin some very fancy oak-panelled CLOSED doors (as with recent leaks regarding Labour’s shirking over our Water) get to do all our choosing. No more of this fumbling clown, no more Union, no more hand-wringing and collar-pulling. Dihunwch – Annibyniaeth Nawr!

Riki
Riki
10 months ago

Why would they change it? If the state of the Uk hasn’t been bad enough to force change. Why would they do it willingly? England would lose out on so much. To be honest, It’s pretty embarrassing that the majority of politicians in Wales are totally fine being second class citizens. And totally fine with their nation being looked down on. As long as they have a job tomorrow, they don’t care.

Ernie The Smallholder
Ernie The Smallholder
10 months ago

This article in Byline Cymru has the clearest reason why a federal system won’t work for us in Wales in the long term: Slovenia gained its independence in 1991. At that time, Wales was significantly better off than Slovenia; now the opposite is true. Independence gave the people of Slovenia the freedom to adopt policies that worked for them specifically, proving that a smaller economy is more agile and better equipped to serve its population. Slovenia spent the decades prior to its independence as part of Yugoslavia and, prior to that, centuries as part of the Austrian Empire. As with… Read more »

Charles Coombes
Charles Coombes
10 months ago

Dear Mr Drakeford,
It is already the disunited kingdom at so many levels. Please dont waste your time trying to sew it back together.
Let Wales separate and rejoin the EU.

David Parry
David Parry
10 months ago

Leave the UK to join the EU. That’s about the nub of the matter. Shedmaster drakeford is a total loss,everything labour in the bay touch turns to brown stuff. You want a decent NHS? Ditch the airport. . Joining the EU is not independence in any sense of the word. You’ll be governed by what Berlin and Paris decide.

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