Nigel Farage struck fear into the heart of the British political establishment last May as his Brexit Party hailed an unprecedented victory in the European elections, gaining as much as 40 percent of the vote in some parts of the country. Pundits were stunned as the party surged to historic wins in the East, North West and South-West of England and Wales but, in London, it was a different story. It was the Liberal Democrats who topped the European elections poll in the capital as the Conservatives were completely wiped out.
The result did not come as a surprise, as London has been seen as a pro-Remain hub ever since the 2016 referendum.
The vast majority of English parliamentary constituencies apart from London voted to Leave in 2016, arguably showing how political and economic power within England is largely London and city-dominated.
The Leave vote in England has therefore been seen by many as a wake-up call that it is seeking to reclaim control.
With devolution in 1997, the Parliament of the UK granted powers to the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly.
The agreement left England as the only country of the United Kingdom without a devolved parliament or assembly, as English affairs are decided unanimously in Westminster.
Although this constitutional grey area has existed for years, the changes brought about by Brexit are likely to highlight it even more.
Former Labour MP and ex-chairman of Vote Leave Gisela Stuart is now campaigning alongside other high-profile politicians in the Constitution Reform Group (CRG) for the Act of Union bill – a blueprint that could resolve this issue – by proposing a federal structure for the continuation of the Union, establishing the principle of self-determination among all four parts.
Ms Stuart explained to Express.co.uk why an English Parliament is needed, arguing London is not representative of the country.
She said: “London is a capital city as well as a big international city.
“Therefore it is not entirely representative as much as the rest of the country.
“While we meet in London, it does not necessarily reflect the regions.
“If you are Scottish, the Scottish elite in some sense they meet in Edinburgh.
“Edinburgh with the Parliament, there is a sense of belonging, roots and community there.
“That’s the bit we have got missing in England.
“It is the feeling: ‘Where do we find a collective voice?’
“While London is absolutely magnificent, it is in its structures not sufficient.”
So far, the Bill put forward by the CRG proposes two alternatives for a future governance of England.
A spokesman for the CRG said: “The first model is the creation of a directly elected English Parliament to deal with non-central areas.
“The second model provides for a regional devolution option whereby the UK Parliament would continue legislating both on central matters for the UK as a whole and on all matters for England.
“It would put the English Votes for English Laws system on a statutory basis by restriction.”
In a 2019 talk for Yale University, Vernon Bogdanor, one of Britain’s foremost constitutional experts echoed Ms Stuart’s claims, arguing the reasons people in London voted Remain is because they are more comfortable in Brussels than in provincial England.
He said: “Concerns about identity were felt most strongly by the disadvantaged and insecure.
“The victims of social and economic change.
“Alienated from a banking, financial and political establishment, which seemed to have waddled the crisis with hardly any difficulty
“The elite to them, seemed not only socially mobile, benefitting from a meritocratic society but also geographically mobile.
“They were located in large conurbations, such as London, Manchester and Newcastle. All of which, supported Remain.
“The elite in Britain perhaps other countries too is internationalist.
“It is more comfortable in Brussels, than it is in Blackpool or Burnley.”
Mr Bogdanor noted: “But those left behind by the decline of manufacturing industry are neither socially nor geographically mobile.
“They remain rooted to their decaying communities.
“Remarkably around 60 percent of the British population live within 20 miles of where they grow up.
“They did not share the multicultural perspective of Londoners, who welcomed immigration and favoured the European Union.”
The expert added that the contrast between London and the rest of England may also be one the reasons why so many media commentators based in the capital missed the significance of the grassroots insurgency in provincial England, which is leading to Brexit.
He concluded: “Many of those who voted for Brexit felt they had been ignored and felt anger at the political economical establishment.
“The referendum was an opportunity to display that anger.”
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