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First Minister sets out ideas to strengthen “fragile” Union

Written by on 28th June 2021

The First Minister is to set out a refreshed 20-point plan to make the United Kingdom stronger and work better for everyone.

The ambitious plan – Reforming Our Union – has been updated following the Senedd and Scottish Parliament elections in May and the trade agreement signed by the UK and the European Union.

Launching the plan, First Minister Mark Drakeford said relationships within the UK need to be reset because “too often we see the UK Government act in an aggressively unilateralist way.”

For the UK to thrive, the union of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland must be based on a partnership of equals, with regular opportunities for the four governments to work together and manage disputes properly.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said:

“Wales’ future is best served by having strong devolution – so decisions about Wales are made in Wales – and by being an equal partner in a strong and revitalised United Kingdom.

“For this to happen, the way the Union works must change. And the need for change is urgent – the Union has never been this fragile. If matters continue in their current vein the case for the break-up of the UK will only increase.

“Too often we see the UK Government act in an aggressively unilateral way, claiming to act on behalf of the whole UK, but without regard for the status of the nations and the democratic mandates of their government.

“We see muscular unionism, instead of working towards a genuinely constructive and collaborative relationship between the governments of the UK.

“It’s time for relationships to be reset. The principles and ways of working we have outlined would lead to the strong and durable Union – a Union which we believe would deliver the best outcomes for the people of Wales and the wider United Kingdom.”

Reforming Our Union was first published in October 2019, as the UK was preparing to leave the European Union. It has been updated to reflect the changed constitutional and political circumstances which affect Wales and the rest of the UK.

It proposes 20 ideas about how the UK can be made stronger and be made to work for the good of everyone living in the United Kingdom.

These range from reforming the House of Lords to reflect the make-up of the United Kingdom, including giving the upper house the specific job of protecting the constitution and devolution, to creating a new, independent public body to oversee how funding arrangements are made in the UK, instead of the UK Government.

It also proposes the devolution of justice and policing to Wales – as it already is to Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The Welsh Government has announced it will set up an independent commission to consider the constitutional future of Wales. This will look at the reforms needed to empower and benefit Wales, increasing prosperity and improving quality of life and wellbeing.

Mick Antoniw, Counsel General and Minister for Constitution, said:

Reforming Our Union sets out a positive case for change and we hope it will stimulate wider debate about the future of Wales and the future of the UK.

“Constitutional reform is a necessity. The framework within which decisions are made has a direct impact on the services we access and communities we live in. Getting this framework right is essential as we work to create a stronger, greener, fairer Wales.

“We want to hear from as many people as possible as we start a national conversation about our future in Wales and our future relationships with the rest of the UK.”