Between Two Unions: The Constitutional Future of the Islands after Brexit
This project, funded by an ESRC Large Grant, examines the inter-relationship between UK withdrawal from the European Union and political, economic and social relations between the constituent territories of the United Kingdom and also with Ireland.
Brexit risks disrupting constitutional settlements within the UK, and has destabilized the UK’s relationship with Ireland. Its implementation reignites questions about the locus of power and sovereignty within the UK. Divergent possible constitutional paths include the recentralization and a reassertion of central state sovereignty, the weakening and potential disintegration of the United Kingdom state, or further devolution and asymmetry.
The project explores these issues against the backdrop of the negotiations intended to lead to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, and the design and implementation of a new constitutional settlement and new UK-EU relationship. We focus on four dimensions: institutional relationships and changes in the powers of institutions; constitutional principles and the degree to which they are clarified and shared; the economic union, including rules for policing the UK single market and the distribution of public expenditure; and social welfare and the variation of citizen entitlements across the islands, including mutual recognition and portability.
The Repatriation of EU Competences: Implications for devolution
This project is part of the ESRC UK in a Changing Europe programme.
The repatriation of competences following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU necessarily affects the competences and capacities of the devolved legislatures and governments. What then happens to those competences over which the EU has authority but, domestically, are also devolved?
As well as examining the broader effect of the repatriation of powers on devolution, we focus on three policy sectors: agriculture; environment, especially climate and energy policy; and justice & home affairs. We examine the extent of overlap between devolved and Europeanized competences; the options for allocating competences and financial resources under Brexit, and their implications; the extent to which devolution/territorial issues feature in the Brexit negotiation process, and the degree of influence exerted by the devolved governments; what the outcome of negotiations means for the distribution of competences within the UK; and the intergovernmental machinery and mechanisms that will be needed to replace the coordinating role of the EU.
Previous CCC projects
- The Constitutional Future of Scotland and the UK
The CCC was originally established as part of the ESRC Future of the UK and Scotland programme in the buildup to the Scottish independence referendum. Its first year was spent examining the implications of independence. Researchers investigated currency union, cross-border relations, EU membership, defence and strategic alliances, political behaviour and public attitudes towards independence and other constitutional options, and political economy and the broader economics of independence.
Following that referendum, our core research examined the process and proposals for a new devolution settlement for Scotland, English votes for English laws and its implications, UK territorial finance and UK intergovernmental relations in light of ongoing constitutional change, and the territorial dimension of the EU referendum.
- A Changing UK in a Changing Europe
Michael Keating’s fellowship analysed these the UK’s relationship to Europe in the buildup to David Cameron’s proposed renegotiation and the subsequent events leading to the 2016 Brexit referendum. It explored options for change within the UK and Europe, drawing on comparative experience. It engaged stakeholders and the general public in the debate on the UK and Europe. Dissemination took place through regular briefings and was posted on the ESRC UK in a Changing Europe website as well as this one. As well as engaging with governments and parliaments, Michael took the opportunity to address public meetings around the UK.
- Between autonomy and interdependence: Scottish independence and intergovernmental co-ordination
Nicola McEwen’s fellowship investigated the claim, made by those urging a Yes vote in the run-up to the Scottish Independence Referendum, that an independent Scotland would maintain close ties to the other nations of the British Isles. These ties would be between governments as well as between people and business. The research took a focused look at two policy areas - social security and energy. Following a Yes vote, overlaps would have remained in these areas as a result of the shared labour market, shared energy market, the free movement of people, goods and business across the British Isles, and the legacy of shared service provision over many decades. The research made a contribution to academic study and be conveyed to broader audiences in a wide variety of public events, media contributions and seminars with key stakeholders in the fields of social security and energy.