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