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Future of the UK hangs in the balance, according to experts at Mile End Institute launch event

Wednesday 4 March 2015


The Mile End Institute launch event took place on 2 March with a sold-out crowd of 350 policymakers, journalists, academics and members of the public.

The Mile End Institute launch event took place on 2 March with a sold-out crowd of 350 policymakers, journalists, academics and members of the public.

Professor Michael Kenny, Director of the Mile End Institute launched the new centre and outlined its mission to deepen and challenge public understanding of politics and governance.

The debate on the constitution ranged over the issues of Scottish independence, English votes for English laws, devolution and proportional representation.

Lord Hennessy warned the United Kingdom as we know it may not survive the next decade and is “no longer a fixed map in the collective UK mind”.

“I’m a natural optimist but I do carry one semi-nightmare scenario in my head. In 2017, or thereabouts, we squeak out of Europe. The Scottish question will then reopen, because Scotland will almost certainly vote to stay in. Scotland will very likely have an SNP majority government after the elections to Holyrood, and the Scottish government will say ‘we need another Edinburgh agreement, the deal is off’. So, in September 2022, Scotland leaves.

“In ten years’ time we could be out of the EU, shorn of Scotland, narrow, shrivelled, resentful, and inward-looking in the cold northern seas. Not a happy picture”.

David Davis argued that on English Votes for English Laws (EVEL), “we have led ourselves into incredibly difficult circumstances”.

“What we should be arguing for on EVEL is something that’s clear cut, but yet again we’re looking at a fudge. What Hague has proposed as his favoured option, gives the amendment rights and some of the voting rights to English members of parliament if it’s an English issue, but then it comes back to the UK parliament again - and they’ve got to decide on the final outcome. The moment there’s a distinction between the UK group in parliament and the English group, you’re going to have another schism”

Baroness Onora O’Neill called for “a proper constitutional convention, with due seriousness, care and a lack of populism, to look at these issues”.

“What we need is something that is workable, fair, a coherent allocation of powers and duties, equality of citizenship – for example the right of appeal to the Supreme Court, a single passport, currency, borders, defence, and so on – and greater visibility of financial flows. I think subsidies from one part of the country to the other are absolutely fine, but they need to be for clear reasons, not by a formula that creates automatic privilege for some groups and some regions.”

About the Mile End Institute

The QMUL Mile End Institute, led by Professor Michael Kenny, is a major new policy centre based at Queen Mary University of London. Its mission is to deepen and challenge public understanding of the crises facing our systems of politics and governance, and to promote a richer debate about public policy issues and the UK’s role within the wider world.

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