Let the new dawn commence! Brexit – whilst not exactly done – has arrived. This stirs up all kinds of emotions regardless of whether you voted Brexit or Remain. There is still so much uncertainty that needs clarity and division that needs to be healed. How will the Conservative majority Government respond?
The Parliamentary paralysis of 2019 has been replaced with unparalleled energy and confidence in the corridors of Westminster. With the election of 68 Conservative MPs in the North and the so called ‘red wall’ turning blue, Conservative MPs in Labour’s former heartlands have been quick to assert themselves and find their voice. Indeed, senior Northern Conservative MP, Kevin Hollinrake, tweeted his delight that “the Gov’t is poised to support @NPAPPG pleas for 30-year, £70bn investment in Northern infrastructure #UniteAndLevelUp”
The General Election result – and indeed the Brexit Referendum – are testament to the fact that Westminster and Whitehall is not working for great swathes of the country and that regional inequality is a real problem in the UK. In post-Brexit Britain we will find a new found appetite to “get devolution done” and re-invigorate plans to give back control to ‘left behind towns’ and regions who have been ‘let down’ by centralised government.
The economic rationale for devolution is clear and was laid out plainly in the Notes to the Queen’s Speech: “All of the largest non-capital cities in the UK, with the exception of Bristol, are less productive than would be expected for their size and huge potential.”
Boris Johnson – a keen supporter of devolution – has flagged up the new Government’s determination, “to unleash the potential of our regions, which will include plans for… levelling up powers and investment in the regions across England and allowing each part of the country to decide its own destiny” and we expect to see a Devolution White Paper soon.
Delivery of the Boris promise to the North and Midlands and realising visible improvement in a string of post-industrial towns is now essential. Given the Westminster mood music and excitement, there can be no turning back.
In the new post-Brexit era we need devolution to work for Britain. It’s not just about levelling-up it’s about devolving real powers, responsibilities and delivering growth and opportunities. Government and Whitehall Departments must fully commit to the devolution project.
We will surely see more Government agencies, businesses and organisations move out of an overheated capital. There is no point ‘taking back control’ from Brussels and relocating that power in Westminster and Whitehall. In its White Paper the Government must set out a new devolution framework which puts in place new and strategic structures to drive growth and regeneration in the towns and cities across the North and Midlands. In post-Brexit we need to be firing on all cylinders and open for business. Watch this space.
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