Forever and a day, 2020 will be known as the ‘The Lost Year.’ We always knew it was going to be challenging, with first the Presidential Election in November followed by Brexit shortly afterwards. Both were calamities of different sorts. But by then a third virus had taken root in the shape of Covid. In a sense all three are still with us.
Covid has devastated families and communities, especially our care homes, schools, universities, businesses (especially small ones), sports and the arts, farmers and our high streets. The Presidential election exposed the fundamental flaws in America’s Constitution which is now beyond patch-up. Brexit is unfolding before our very eyes with notification this week that we will need a Green Card to motor on the Continent and additional health insurance too. Both these could have been incorporated in any deal but the Government preferred to ‘take back its borders’ even if it meant these were in the middle of the Irish Sea.
Our Constitution, such as it is, is also veering towards the rocks. We’ve always known about Scotland’s desire to want its independence, especially as it voted Remain in 2016 by 62% to 38%. Wales too voted Remain (52.5% to 47.5%). It has quietly replaced its Assembly with the word ‘parliament’ though it was not trusted to have as many powers as Scotland when it voted for devolution in 1997 (50.3% to 49.7%). Northern Ireland also voted Remain, 55.8% to 44.2%, whilst England manifestly did not, voting to Leave by 53.4% to 46.6%.
No politician has yet offered a solution to the growing wish of Scotland to become more independent or totally independent, or to Wales’s greater clamour for more powers and their growing confidence as a nation: no longer forever under the wing of England. Meanwhile, Northern Ireland might agree to a more permanent relationship with Ireland whilst keeping its roots to the mainland. It feels to me as if this might take a decade or so to finesse. Though I long for a united Ireland – as it always was – I recognise that we do not want to reopen a civil war in the process. Hong Kong’s fifty year dual sovereignty might be something the Irish would want to explore but without the current outcome there, where the UK has declared its manifest disinterest.
I worry most about Scotland, as Brexit has proven already, a treaty can come unstuck after three days. Scotland has no central bank and no currency of its own. Scotland would take five years to untangle this assuming the rest of the Kingdom played ball; longer, if it does not. It isn’t yet clear whether she will transfer sterling for the euro, as Tommy Cooper used to say, ‘Just like that.’ This would cause some hike in her exports to non-EU countries. No doubt, I am worrying unnecessarily.
I still feel there is one course open to saving the United Kingdom as an entity. My choice would be four lower Parliaments all with the same powers for the four members of the union. Over the top would be an elected Senate; its members would comprise thirty three English senators whilst the other three countries would have eleven senators each. The Speaker would have the casting vote. The House of Lords would be no more.
The Senate’s powers would include some Treasury matters, most of Foreign Affairs and Environment, all of our large infrastructure projects and a watchful eye over its lesser brothers and sisters. The ‘new’ lower parliaments could fashion their elected city mayors, unitary authorities or county council how they wished. They could if they wanted have a bicameral offer made up of national MPs in one chamber and the city mayors and others in another as long as they were all elected.
The Parliamentary system for all ‘houses’ would be a variation of proportional representation with the elected candidate winning 50% + 1 of all votes cast.
As I may have said before, at this moment, I have a majority of one. But as yet no-one has come forward with an improved offer.