The Constitution Unit


The Constitution Unit News

Unit publishes new Briefing Paper on Brexit and its consequences for Devolution and the Union

On 19 May, the Constitution Unit hosted its third Brexit seminar. Our panellists Professor Sionaidh Douglas-Scott, Queen Mary University of London, Professor Jim Gallagher of Nuffield College, Oxford, Professor Cathy Gormley-Heenan, University of Ulster, and Dr Rachel Minto, Cardiff University discussed the impact that Brexit would have on Devolution and the Union. This briefing paper, written by Robert Hazell and Alan Renwick, explores this topic in further depth. It opens by explaining that public opinion is much more pro-EU in Scotland and Northern Ireland than in England and Wales; this creates the possibility of a divided, and divisive, referendum result if the different nations in the UK vote in different ways. The paper then discusses the process of withdrawal, how the devolved nations would be represented during the Brexit negotiations, and whether a vote for Brexit would trigger a second independence referendum in Scotland. It concludes by considering the long term policy consequences of Brexit, in terms of the scope for greater policy differentiation between the different nations of the UK, and the scope for the devolved nations to develop different relationships with the EU.

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Press Release: Scotland, Wales and Ireland point to how governments should be formed in hung Parliaments

In their recent elections Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland all saw the return of a hung Parliament in which no party gained an overall majority. Under their constitutions the first business of the newly elected Parliament is to elect the head of the new government. That is what happened in Ireland on 6 May, and this week in Scotland on 17 May and in Wales on 18 May. In a new report published today by the Constitution Unit at UCL and the Department of Politics at Oxford University the authors suggest that is what should also happen at Westminster. Instead of the Queen having to decide who should be Prime Minister before Parliament meets, the first business of a newly elected House of Commons should be to select the Prime Minister, who would then be formally appointed by the Queen.

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Unit publishes new briefing paper on Brexit and its Consequences for the EU’s Political System

On 5 May, the Constitution Unit hosted its second Brexit seminar. Our panellists - Kenneth Armstrong, Professor of European Law (Cambridge), Simon Hix, Professor of Political Science (LSE) and Sir Stephen Wall, former UK Permanent Representative to the European Union - discussed the impact that Brexit would have on the EU and its political system.

This briefing paper, written by Oliver Patel and Christine Reh, explores this topic in further depth. Drawing on the seminar, it outlines the UK's contribution to the EU and argues that Brexit would have a significant impact on the EU's political system. In the short-term, British disengagement could undermine initiatives such as TTIP and the Capital Markets Union. In the long-term, Brexit would change the EU’s balance of power.  It is particularly likely to strengthen protectionist forces and social democrats. However, Germany’s position could also be strengthened. It is also likely to undermine the EU's foreign policy ambitions.

The paper is part of a wider project on the UK and the EU. The project consists of a series of seminars, with each seminar followed by a briefing paper and video on the same topic. There are two more seminars and briefing papers, as well as a major debate, prior to the referendum, details of which can be found here.

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Unit publishes briefing paper on Brexit and announces UCL EU referendum debate speakers

On 21 April, the Constitution Unit hosted its first Brexit seminar. Our panellists - Lord Lisvane, former Clerk of the House of Commons, Sir Simon Fraser, former Permanent Under-Secretary of the Foreign Office and Professor Hussein Kassim, author of The European Commission of the Twenty-First Century – discussed the impact that Brexit would have on Whitehall and Westminster.

This briefing paper, written by Nicholas Wright and Oliver Patel, explores this topic in further depth. Drawing on the seminar, it asks: what are the immediate political consequences of a vote to leave the EU? What would the withdrawal process entail and how would it impact on Parliament and the civil service? And, what would be the long-term impact of Brexit on Whitehall and Westminster? The evidence indicates that Brexit would have a significant impact on Whitehall and Westminster, especially during the withdrawal process.

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Press Release: Strathclyde report could hold key to next stage in Lords reform

The report published today by Lord Strathclyde into powers of the House of Lords could facilitate a wider deal on the next stage of Lords reform, say experts at UCL's Constitution Unit. The Strathclyde report proposes a reduction in the chamber's powers over secondary legislation, which is likely to prove controversial with members of the Lords, and particularly with the Labour opposition. But there are also changes that members of the Lords themselves urgently want: in particular control over the chamber's size, and unregulated prime ministerial appointments. House of Lords expert Professor Meg Russell therefore suggests that there could now be a deal to be struck.

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New leadership for the Constitution Unit

Today marks an important transition for UCL's Constitution Unit, as its founding Director, Professor Robert Hazell, steps down after more than 20 years of service. The Unit's new Director is Professor Meg Russell, who joined the Unit in 1998 and was previously its Deputy Director. The new Deputy Director is Dr Alan Renwick, who joined UCL in September from the University of Reading.

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