As the UK prepares to leave the EU, much has been said about the consequences for open borders and EU freedoms. After nearly five decades of membership, the complexities surrounding divorcing UK laws from those intertwined to the EU are, unsurprisingly, thwarted with difficulties. However, beyond Brexit, it is often taken for granted that the UK has enjoyed a ‘customs union’, and border-free movement, that extends far beyond the longevity of the EU, insofar as the UK is a nation-of-nations. Whilst, post-1998, the UK’s unitary constitutional model of devolution has been fragmented and incremental, the transfer of powers to the regions has been relatively based on mutual respect.
However, Brexit has seen these relationships enter new paradigms, not least over the Sewel Convention, otherwise known as Legislative Consent Motions (LCMs). Whilst the Supreme Court stated that the devolved legislatures have no legal right of veto over Brexit, the UK Government, at least at the time, acknowledged that, LCMs should be sought from the devolved bodies. Particularly, as Brexit would change areas traditionally of devolved competence. However, following disagreement by Scotland, and some Welsh Assembly Members, to grant LCMs, there are now greater political points of contention between the regions and Westminster. In the absence of a political solution, the UK Government has had to shift towards an arbitrary reliance on their legal supremacy. In doing so, socio-political evidence coming from the regions’ political parties shows that the rhetoric is changing, with greater and more frequent references to how disregard for their concerns will lead to renewed calls for independence.
Whilst it is appropriate, within a democracy that follows the tenets of the rule of law, to debate where powers should be vested following Brexit, the strain on the UK’s unitary constitutional model needs to be addressed. Whilst scholarship has focused on the UK constitution after Miller, recent signals from politicians suggests that the time is now opportune to also reconsider constitutional patriarchy, the model of Westminster sovereignty and their effect on the UK Union. Given the concerns of Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish politicians, and the societies they represent, for the UK Union to survive, asymmetrical quasi-federalism is looking increasingly likely post-Brexit.