In a pamphlet published last week Lord Owen suggested that a cross-party convention should be established to consider proposals for a Federal UK Council, modelled on the German Bundesrat. He argues that such an institution, which would include representation for London and the new city-regions as well as England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, could help unite the UK in the aftermath of the EU referendum. In this post he summarises his proposals.
In the aftermath of the EU referendum result it is both logical and appropriate for political parties to seek to unite the UK. In a pamphlet published last week I propose that to this end an all-party convention should be held on the establishment of a Federal UK Council, modelled on the German Bundesrat. I argue that running our exit from the EU in tandem with the creation of a Federal UK Council is both feasible and proper. Different people and different issues are involved, but they fit together. Postponing a Federal UK Council would be an error and risks missing a moment in history when the British people are well aware that our unity is at risk and yet most want it to be maintained.
The German Bundesrat
I am convinced that if any convention is to be capable of attracting full SNP participation it needs a specific, not a general mandate. This specific mandate should be to examine the possibility of establishing a Federal UK Council based on the model of the German Bundesrat. The Bundesrat has the advantage of being a proven mechanism designed to approve all legislation that affects Germany’s 16 Länder (federal states), including constitutional changes.
The Bundesrat’s membership is drawn entirely from the executives (i.e. governments) of the Länder. Each state sends a delegation of between three and six members depending on population size (all have at least three members, those with populations of over two million have four, those with populations of over six million five and those with populations over seven million six). The delegations are required to cast their votes as a block, even though there are often coalitions at state level so they are drawn from two or more parties. Should members of a delegation cast different votes then all of the votes of that state would be invalid.