A new cabinet group has been set up by the UK Government to look at ways in which they can “bind” the devolved nations, including Wales, closer to Westminster.
The Union Policy Implementation committee will be chaired by Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister, and include Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in its membership.
The group, which also includes the secretaries of state for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, has held its first informal meeting.
Its mission is defined as being “to support the delivery of the government’s priorities in relation to the Union of the United Kingdom”.
According to today’s Times newspaper, the committee will be looking at creating new UK-wide economic and security bodies as “part of an effort to strengthen the Union”.
The aim will be to “enhance the UK government’s standing in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland” according to the newspaper.
The new committee is being supported by No 10’s “Union unit” and a new resource within the Cabinet Office, which will involve more than 20 officials working on policies.
One item on the agenda will be to discuss how the new UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which replaces funding controlled by the EU, will be used to “bind” the UK nations, the Times said.
This will involve branding to mark the UK government’s contribution at investment sites in the same way that investment from the EU is promoted.
The Times also reports that Tory ministers are preparing to be more “robust” with their SNP counterparts in taking responsibility for macroeconomic and security issues.
Exploring options for Mr Johnson’s proposed bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland will also be on the agenda.
The Prime Minister said that now was the time “to strengthen that incredible partnership” of the four nations. “I believe the Union has more than shown its worth and a prosperous and united kingdom must be a connected kingdom,” he said.
Nicola Sturgeon said she was “extremely underwhelmed” by the plan. She said Mr Johnson’s announcement was “simply shuffling around money that was already in the system” and was not enough considering “the scale of the challenge that we face”.