In recent blog posts, I have been advancing ideas that respond to the frightending dysfunction in the UK polity.
1. Separation of Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales into individual, independent countries embedded into the EU, and England levered to tether itself as a non member in name only, or rejoining at some point.
2. Membership of the euro and aspects of the ‘ever closer political union’ that the UK has thus far been exempted from.
Using the same logic, regional devolution would help achieve and accentuate the same ends.
I am not a fan of regional devolution. Devolving tax raising and spending powers impairs risk sharing and risks municipal corruption and cronyism. I am not convinced that regions are better placed to trade-off whatever special insight they have into their local problems with the aggregate national interest in the supply of public goods. But anything that can tame the powers of the mal-functioning national parties and executive has to be a good thing.
In the limit, chop the country up into entirely independent regions and have them embedded in the EU. The break-up of the union would still leave a relatively empowered England able to do harm to its neighbours and itself. [England has about 56m of the 66m population of the UK]. Dismembered into North, Central and South East and Cornwall, and the consequential parochialism in their politics reducing their collective heft, less harm would be done.
None of these regions would support a nuclear deterrant or a significant standing army. All would be dependent on the wider European and NATO structures. The pressure to submit to the rules of the single market for each of the constituent regions would be very great. Perhaps every 50 years something like the nationalist virus that has infected the UK would take hold of one of the regions, putting it in conflict, or perhaps even for periods outside the EU. But this would be of much less consequence, affecting fewer people, and much harder to sustain. With greatly reduced power would come a reduced level of responsibility that the lowest decile of politicians by capability – who are are currently seeing fill the great offices of state and the Opposition – could live up to.
These things I guess are not going to happen, and, borrowing David Cameron’s old insult aimed at UKIP, you might think me a ‘fruitcake’ for proposing them.