Thursday, 4 November 2010

Can Federalism Work?

Yesterday I commented on both Peter Black's and Synidau's  Blog on the proposal to reduce the number of MPs particularly in Wales.

 On Peter Blog I commented,

"But the question we should ask are Wales, Scotland,Northern Ireland and England equal members of the U.K as countries are equal members of the European Union.
If you are a federal party as you claim, shouldn't you bee arguing for more Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland MPs?
If English MPs are able to simply dominate policy on non-devolved issues, how are we equal partners and how is this a fair union"?

Peter's reply was,

"That makes no sense whatsoever. As a Federal Party we should and are arguing for equal representation at a Federal level and more powers at a Welsh level. If English MPs can dominate on non-devolved issues, and I have seen no evidence that they act as a block at all, it is because England is bigger than the other countries. This bill is entirely consistent with our Federalism"..

And of course Peter was right.My comment makes no sense but only if you do not recognise Wales as a Nation but only as a region of the UK.

The Lib-Dems may be a Federal party but they don't exactly promote this very effectively and there must be a question of what is meant by federalism?

If they mean that that the Union should be a Federal Union of Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and England then my argument would holds firm and that in the Westminster Parliament that deals with Non-devolved issues then there should be more Welsh,Scottish and Northern Ireland MPs on a line with the allocation of member states of the European Union, and Ministers from Wales for Instance should have Veto powers.

If the Lib-Dems mean that power should be devolved to English Regions then this would mean Wales and Scotland will be regarded as mere UK regions and not Nations and they equality would be the same as say the South West of England and what would that mean for the claims of Cornwall?.

There could be different measures of Devolution in the "Regions" of course as there is Spain. The Basque country for instance operate s its own police force.
But a grat deal of power would still be operated by MPs from England and they would as they do now control the purse skins.

I remind everyone that only 23 members of the current Lib-con government come from Wales,Scotland  and Northern Ireland and only 9 of these are Tories.

We still are being ruled by a government which as a Nation we did not vote for.

So I accept Peter argument that my proposal does not make sense because if we are a Nation then the only thing that makes sense is Independence. Perhaps those Labour members and supporters who are complaining that Wales is being badly treated by an Alien Westminster should now realise this.

It will not be the Welsh Region of the UK who play Australia on Saturday.


  1. Spot on. This is exactly this issue that the drafters of the US constitution were thinking of when they decided on the make up of Congress. State representation in the House of representatives is based on population, while each state has the same number Senators. California has 53 Representatives but only 2 Senators - the same as Vermont.

  2. I think Peter Black is mixing up two different conceptions of federalism- as you say, Peter's conception is that of a federation of one British nation, while we would perhaps tend towards what might be called 'plurinational federalism'. The EU is in *some* respects a good example of how a plurinational federation of Wales, England and Scotland could work.

    In this scenario, sovereignty lies with the constituent countries and powers are conferred upwards by the member countries, rather than devolved downwards. The constitution itself would be a multilateral treaty between sovereign countries.

    The house of commons would revert to being an English parliament, while we could junk the house of lords and replace it with a federal assembly, with seats apportioned in the way that they are apportioned to the European Parliament. The crucial institution in some respects would be an equivalent of the Council of Ministers or the German Bundesrat (representing the constituent governments of the federation directly) as a second chamber, in which federal legislation relating to conferred and shared competencies would be subject to a system of qualified majority voting (and in some cases veto), preventing the federal government acting unilaterally to the detriment of one or more of the member countries.

  3. Thanks to the two comments for expanding this. If however we were to go down this road it will be dependent on the English voters accepting the idea of a form of "Council of the Isle" in which they would have to accept that they are equal partners.
    There are some signs that this may be possible and it is possible that we can cooperate due to our mutual history. But it could also be seen as a last ditch attempt to save the Union. However this does not mean that this is not the right approach. The question which would remain however is.Would be Wales be an equal part of Europe or part of an UK Bloc?

  4. I don't think being part of a federal or confederal Uk/Commonwealth of Britain (or whatever) and being an autonomous part of the EU are necessarily mutually exclusive. The individual member states of the EU retain their individual membership of the UN, for example, so there's no reason why Wales couldn't do the same. Federalism in this context would mean cooperation for mutual benefit on an island-wide basis where desirable and possible, rather than a modification of the existing set-up. But whether the English would be up for it is, as you say, a rather different matter...

  5. I've just read the post on Welsh Agenda on Proposals for a "Nordic Federal State" which seems to be somewhat in tune with this debate.
    I wish we could create hyperlinks in the comments section.