Between two unions.The Constitutional Future of the Islands after Brexit

Lead Research Organisation: University of Aberdeen
Department Name: School of Social Science

Abstract

The project examines the inter-relationship between UK withdrawal from the European Union and constitutional change within the United Kingdom and Ireland. This constitutes a historically important event in its own right, and a real-time experiment in constitutional reinvention in a context with few rules and an unknown outcome.

The United Kingdom and the European Union both constitute unions, a constitutional form that is under-conceptualized. We start by taking it as means of reconciling unity with diversity, with political, economic and social dimensions. Unionism in the United Kingdom historically combined recognition of national diversity with refusal of political devolution. That has changed since the 1990s with devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland but the Union has not been redefined. Instead the core state has remained largely unaltered and the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty retained. The question of England is largely unaddressed. Many fundamental issues about the constitution are unaddressed, there is little constitutional jurisprudence and conflicts are resolved pragmatically and by political means. The Republic of Ireland has been a separate state since 1949 but retains economic and social ties to the United Kingdom and in recent years has shared in the management of Northern Ireland.

Some observers have criticized this all as incoherent and unstable and called for a formal constitution and better definition of the territorial division of power. Others have valued and admired the constitutional flexibility of the UK.

The transformation of the UK from a unity to a multilevel state since the 1990s has been underpinned in important ways by membership of the EU; the two unions have been complementary. It has allowed a more permissive devolution settlement and introduced notions of shared sovereignty that provide the inspiration for forms of self-government short of secession. Like the UK, the EU lacks a clearly defined end goal and is open to multiple interpretations.

Brexit destabilizes the UK settlement and its relationship with Ireland, especially in view of the Remain votes in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Its implementation requires internal constitutional change. This could entail recentralization and a reassertion of central state sovereignty, the disintegration of the United Kingdom, or further devolution and asymmetry.

The project examines the way these issues will be worked out leading up to withdrawal and the UK General Election of 2020. It will examine the process of negotiation in real time. It will seek explanation by looking at the actors, their power resources and the claims and arguments deployed. It will examine the outcome, focusing 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; social welfare and the variation of citizen entitlements across the islands, including mutual recognition and portability.

This represents an important case in its own right and the research will serve to inform policy makers and the general public. It also serves as a critical case in social sciences, exploring the ways in which what are often seen as defining features of the sovereign state have already been stretched in the UK case and the extent to which they can be stretched further. These include a shared doctrine of sovereignty; fixed borders; a core of social entitlements; a clearly-defined state centre; and clear principles and rules for resolving constitutional conflicts.

Planned Impact

The material and analysis produced in the project will have an impact on understanding and reform of constitutional structures across the islands. Specifically, we aim to inform public understanding of the issues; provide policy analysis and advice to decision-makers; enhance parliamentary understanding and scrutiny of the process; and promote international understanding.

There are four target groups. The first are policy-level officials in the UK Government, the Irish Government, devolved governments and the European Commission. Second are parliamentarians in the UK, Ireland and the European Parliament. Third are professional stakeholders and civil society, including business, trade unions and the voluntary sector. Fourth are the general public, with a specific emphasis on hard-to-reach groups.

We will build on existing work with governments at all levels in providing analysis and commentary on proposals through off-the-record seminars and written policy papers. We will give advance notice of relevant findings and invite feedback. These contacts are mostly at official level and we observe strict political neutrality; we are now respected as authoritative and have received no accusations of bias during the two referendum campaigns.

The team has a vast experience in giving evidence to parliamentary committees and acting as official advisors. We will continue this practice and accept advisory roles where appropriate.
We will work with stakeholder and civil society organizations, organizing events tailored to their interests and accepting invitations to their events and meetings, building on existing partnerships.
There will be a full programme of public meetings, building on successful experience during the Scottish and EU referendums. Some of these will be partnered with the national academies, others with local and community groups. We will develop a strategy to reach groups that have historically been outside the mainstream of political debate and who are less likely to vote. These public events will be organized around topical themes, tailored to the location and involve a participative element.

The team will build on their existing high profile in the print and broadcast media across the UK and Ireland and beyond. Contact with journalists will be nurtured and extended. We will exploit the CCC's successful digital media strategy, including the regular newsletter and social media presence.

In order to maintain contact with users and civil society, we will renew the advisory board of CCC to ensure representativity. It will operate on a virtual basis, with regular communication of findings, input of advice and consultation where appropriate with individual members.

We will, as before, maintain a record of contacts with governments, parliamentary activities and media work.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Members of the team have acted as advisors to the Scottish Parliament European and External Affairs, and Finance and Constitution committees. They have given oral and written evidence to the House or Lords Constitutional Affairs Committee, House of Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs and Scottish Affairs committee, National Assembly for Wales and Scottish Parliament. They have been very active in the print and broadcast media.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description Electoral Commission Advisory Panel (October 2017) 
Organisation The Electoral Commission
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Appointed member of Scotland Advisory Board of the Electoral Commission. Board meets three times a year to feed into policy development of the Commission.
Collaborator Contribution Board set up by and overseen by Electoral Commission Scotland
Impact No impacts yet
Start Year 2017
 
Description Partnership with Scottish Parliament External Experts Panel 
Organisation Scottish Parliament
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Negotiated and Set up partnership with Scottish Parliament to establish an expert panel on the Constitution. Included one face-to-face workshop to date, with ongoing ad hoc exchanges and regular information sharing.
Collaborator Contribution Partner led formal appointment process and leads in production and circulation of newsletter, as well as leading on parliamentary input.
Impact No impacts yet.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Scottish Parliament Finance and Constitution Committee 
Organisation Scottish Parliament
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Appointed Adviser to Committee. Wrote briefing papers, drafted questions and provided support in producing report to clerks, convenor and elected member
Collaborator Contribution Formally appointed by partner/
Impact No impacts yet
Start Year 2017
 
Description BBC Budget Programme (14 December 2017) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Discussed Scottish Government budget and implications of Brexit
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Blog, 20 November 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 'Negotiating Frameworks' blog discussing implications of Brexit on devolved settlement in the UK
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.centreonconstitutionalchange.ac.uk/blog/negotiating-frameworks
 
Description Blog, 26 October 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 'Why the devolved nations should support Barnett for Brexit money' blog discussing how Brexit will impact funding for Scotland
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.centreonconstitutionalchange.ac.uk/blog/why-devolved-nations-should-support-barnett-brex...
 
Description Blog, 8 December 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 'The Irish Border Conundrum' blog discussing impact Brexit will have on Irish border and how this will affect Scotland
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.centreonconstitutionalchange.ac.uk/blog/irish-border-conundrum
 
Description Blog, Al Jezzera, 30 October 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 'What happened to Catalonia can't happen to Scotland' blog discussing how Catalonian and Scottish independence movements have used EU membership to their advantage
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/happened-catalonia-happen-scotland-171030134957987.html
 
Description Blog, European Parliament Magazine October 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 'What consequences will Brexit have on UK's devolved territories?'
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.theparliamentmagazine.eu/articles/opinion/what-consequences-will-brexit-have-uks-devolve...
 
Description Blog: Trust in a Time of Brexit (November 2017) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Posted blog regarding Clause 11 of EU (Withdrawal) Bill.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.centreonconstitutionalchange.ac.uk/blog/trust-time-brexit
 
Description Cabinet Office academic round table (January 2018) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact UK Cabinet Office private workshop on Brexit and UK devolution
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Centre on Constitutional Change workshop on borders and Brexit 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Took part in workshop in which discussed implications of Brexit for borders across British isles
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Conference in Montreal (November 2017) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Conference was examining self-detemination. Spoke on Between Two Unions: Scotland, Brexit and the Politics of Independence.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description David Hume Institute Lecture 20 November 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Lecture discussing challenges to Brexit for devolved nations and their role in Brexit negotiations
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Discussion with Scottish Government Officials 12 October 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Discussion regarding implications of Brexit on devolved settlement
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Dublin Workshop with Irish Civil Servants (October 2017) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Chairing and participation in round table which discussed the implications of Brexit and position on Brexit.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Evidence at Scottish Affairs Committee (October 2017) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Gave evidence for inquiry into European Union (Withdrawal Bill)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Evidence to PACAC (November 2017) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Gave evidence for inquiry into Devolution and Exiting the European Union and Clause || of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Evidence to Scottish Affairs Select Committee, 11 October 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Oral evidence to House of Commons Scottish Affairs Select Committee regarding implications of Brexit on devolved settlement
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Evidence to Scottish Parliament Constitutional Affairs and Finance Committee 01 November 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Oral evidence to Scottish Parliament Constitutional Affairs and Finance Committee regarding the EU (Withdrawal) Bill
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Evidence to Scottish Parliament Constitutional Affairs and Finance Committee, 21 February 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Written and oral evidence to Scottish Parliament Constitutional Affairs and Finance Committee regarding implications of Brexit on devolved settlement
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Festival of Politics Event: Brexit - Where now? (October 2017) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Took part in panel discussion regarding implications and new relationships between Scotland and rest of UK and EU.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Foreign and Commonwealth Office Brexit Workshop (October 2017) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Took part in workshop which discussed implications of Brexit and impact on devolved settlement.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Foreign and Commonwealth Office round table (January 2018) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Meeting with FCO Director General for EU Exit to discuss UK's exit from European Union and its impact on Scotland in the future.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Interview with Al Jazeera 26 October 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interview about how independence movements in Scotland and Catalonia have used EU membership to their advantage
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Interview with Christian Science Monitor 30 October 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Interview about independence movements and how they have used EU membership to their advantage
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Lecture to Gurukul Indian Fellows, 12 October 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Lecture discussing UK and Scottish politics after Brexit
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Meeting with Dutch delegation (October 2017) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Discussion with delegates from Dutch regarding implications of Brexit on devolved settlement.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Meeting with US consul staff (October 2017) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Meeting with US Consul General staff and Dr Carol Lankowski - Coordinator for European Area Studies at State Department's Foreign Services Institute regarding Brexit and its impact on devolved settlement.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Op Ed La Razon January 2018 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Op Ed piece about Brexit in 2018
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
 
Description Panel discussion, University of Edinburgh 11 December 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Speaker in panel discussion regarding impact of Brexit on Irish border
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Private Seminar with Scottish Government Officials 21 December 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Seminar discussing implications of Brexit on devolved settlement
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Quebec Government Meeting (November 2017) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Presentation discussing Brexit and its impact on devolution and national unity in UK.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description SNP Conference Fringe Event with UKiCE (Oct 2017) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Addressing delegates of party conference regarding implications of Brexit on devolved settlement.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010,2017
 
Description Seminar in Cardiff (December 2017) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Seminar discussing implications of Brexit and devolution on agriculture.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Stakeholder Seminar Edinburgh 20 November 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Stakeholders seminar regarding UK borders after Brexit
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description UKiCE Westminster event (October 2017) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Took part in workshop which discussed implications of Brexit and impact of devolution.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Workshop for Scottish Government Advisors (December 2017) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Held workshop to discuss UKiCE research on Brexit, devolution and public policy.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Workshop in Barcelona (Oct 2017) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Presentation on secession politics in UK, including independence and Brexit.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012,2017
 
Description Workshop, Dublin City Univeristy 23 November 2017 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Participant in workshop regarding UK's financial settlement and the future of EU finances
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017