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‘Federalism is the only way the UK can survive’: Lib Dems propose radical shakeup

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Britain should adopt a Brussels-style “council of ministers” to oversee how the Westminster, Holyrood, Cardiff and Belfast governments interact, the Liberal Democrats have said.

The council would be composed of MPs, MSPs and Welsh and Northern Irish assembly members and would act as a forum to discuss how powers returning from the EU should be used.

The proposal, tabled as an amendment to the Internal Market Bill, would give the devolved administrations a much greater say in post-Brexit project investments, food standards and trade deals.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: What’s in the Internal Market Bill?

The Lib Dem plan comes amid continuing hostilities between the UK and devolved governments over plans to allow Westminster to invest in devolved areas and against a backdrop of defunct intergovernmental working.

Scottish constitution secretary Mike Russell said earlier this year that the current forum for debate and decision making between the UK and devolved governments – the joint ministerial committee (JMC) – was “bust”.

North East Fife MP Wendy Chamberlain, who has tabled the Lib Dem amendment, said a shakeup is needed if the UK is to survive.

Wendy Chamberlain.

She said: “The devolution settlement is now 20 years old and clearly some aspects are not working; here is a way of getting back to collective buy in and working collaboratively for the benefit of the whole of the UK.

“We’re obviously supportive of a more federal approach and I believe a more federal approach is the only way forward to ensure the UK survives.”

The Lib Dem chief whip said unionism is struggling because “the current constitutional morass is helping the SNP narrative of  Scotland being ignored”.

She added: “This is a way of demonstrating how the nations of the UK would work in a much more transparent and accountable way together.”

The amendment would require the business secretary to “publish a framework for a UK Council of Ministers” three months after the passage of the Internal Market Bill.

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