Home U.K EU fury: Bloc 'enabled devolution' that sparked UK's constitutional crisis

EU fury: Bloc 'enabled devolution' that sparked UK's constitutional crisis

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Boris Johnson quizzed on devolution ‘disaster’

Brussels had an “enabling” hand in spreading devolution around the UK, Express.co.uk has been told. The revelation could further tensions as the EU continues its “hostile” coronavirus vaccine spat with the UK. For months the bloc has threatened to cut-off the UK’s vaccine supply, with Great Britain and Northern Ireland having led the way on the global stage with its mass vaccination programme.

This comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson grapples to keep the UK together, as Scotland looks increasingly likely to break away.

A surging independence movement has also sprouted in Wales, with murmurs of Irish unification also on the horizon despite recent clashes in Belfast.

Devolution spread to all corners of the Union in the late Nineties under then Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair, who during this period worked closely with then EU Commission President Jacques Santer.

The idea came before him but Mr Blair was elected on the promise of creating devolved institutions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

EU news: Tony Blair with then EU Commission President Jacques Santer

EU news: Tony Blair with then EU Commission President Jacques Santer (Image: GETTY)

Boris Johnson: The PM has the combined challenge of coronavirus and the UK's break-up

Boris Johnson: The PM has the combined challenge of coronavirus and the UK’s break-up (Image: GETTY)

While all decision making was on his shoulders, the EU, said Richard Wyn Jones, played its part in helping to decentralise Westminster’s powers.

The political scientist told Express.co.uk: “The EU is the creation of its members, and it’s worth recalling that it was during the UK’s EU membership that devolution for Scotland and Wales happened.

“Contrary to some myths the EU didn’t push for devolution but it certainly enabled it.”

Professor Wyn Jones and his colleague Ailsa Henderson recently published a comprehensive study of England’s national identity in their book, ‘Englishness: The Political Force Transforming Britain’.

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Tony Blair: The former Labour PM rolled-out devolution across the UK

Tony Blair: The former Labour PM rolled-out devolution across the UK (Image: GETTY)

When asked if devolution and the EU had had an effect on Englishness and the country’s sense of identity, Prof Wyn Jones said: “If the Government at the time had wanted an English Parliament that could easily have been accommodated – there was nothing that the EU could or would have done to stop that.

“It’s so easy in hindsight to portray this as a simple story and progression to where we are now, but in no way did the EU mandate that it was impossible for England to be recognised within the UK.

“That said, it’s also pretty clear that people who feel English have a very strong and particular sense of what we call the ‘English world view’, which is around how you should be governed by Westminster, which should be sovereign; and that freedoms are not derived from human rights legislation, although it’s not entirely clear where they derive from.

“The EU’s pretensions in that regard are not accepted by people with a strong sense of English identity, and there was resistance to the idea of a level of government above Westminster with which Westminster shared sovereignty – that clearly offended historical views in England of how England should be governed.

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Englishness: Professor Wyn Jones said there had been no place for England in the EU

Englishness: Professor Wyn Jones said there had been no place for England in the EU (Image: GETTY)

Wales devolution: Many were and still are opposed to the idea of a Welsh Assembly

Wales devolution: Many were and still are opposed to the idea of a Welsh Assembly (Image: GETTY)

“So there’s two sides to it: on the one hand the EU could have had an English Parliament within it, it could have done all kinds of other things to recognise Englishness, but the fact that that decision wasn’t taken had absolutely nothing to do with the EU itself.

“But the EU’s very construction definitely offended a particular English world view, which is very powerful.”

Devolution has been pushed back onto the agenda in a post-Brexit Britain as nations now want to protect those powers they have enjoyed for the past two decades, and clinch some more.

This is especially true of Scotland, which voted to Remain a part of the EU in 2016, with the Scottish National Party (SNP) having cited the referendum as yet another argument for Scotland’s right to exit the Union.

Brexit: Many in England felt they had been ignored by both Westminster and the EU, claimed Wyn Jones

Brexit: Many in England felt they had been ignored by both Westminster and the EU, claimed Wyn Jones (Image: Express Newspapers)

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will use the May elections as a springboard for a second independence referendum in the country.

Mr Johnson has repeatedly refused to entertain the idea, however.

Meanwhile, in Wales, a poll carried out by ITV in March found that 40 percent of respondents would vote “Yes” to breaking away from the UK if a referendum were held immediately.

It was a significant jump from the broadcaster’s January poll with the same question that found 32 percent to be in favour – itself a record high.

Scotland: Nicola Sturgeon will use May's elections to push Scotland towards independence

Scotland: Nicola Sturgeon will use May’s elections to push Scotland towards independence (Image: GETTY)

There has also been a “shift in enthusiasm” in Northern Ireland for Irish unification, according to Brendan O’Leary, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who has authored several books on Northern Ireland.

He told Al Jazeera last month: “People believe as a result of Brexit that Northern contentment with the world after the Good Friday Agreement is no longer settled and in addition the UK itself is unstable.”



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