Belfast accord should be subject to unionist charter

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A new unionist Department should be created to look after Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and the Belfast Agreement should be made subservient to a new unionist charter.

These are amongst the findings of a new study, which also points out Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom whose political sovereignty is recognised by law and suggests the Barnett formula, whilst treating Northern Ireland and Scotland generously, is now outdated and should be ditched.

‘A Constitutional Crossroads: Ways Forward for the United Kingdom’ which has bee published by the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, makes several recommendations on how the union should be safeguarded in the wake of recent political and national developments within the kingdom.

It suggests the Northern Ireland Office should be scrapped and a new super-unionist Department created instead.

“Before devolution, there was a Scottish Office, a Welsh Office and the Northern Irish Office, each headed by a secretary of state in the Cabinet. After devolution, this remains the case.

“But it is not clear that it should. Consideration should be given to rolling the three departments into a single Department for the Union, in which there would be a single secretary of state (in the Cabinet) and three junior ministers of state, one for each of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“Reform of the civil service is a further aspect of the issues pertaining to the architecture of the union state which requires to be addressed in the light of devolution.”

The report, informed by an independent commission including Monica McWilliams, also proposes a new unionist Charter.

“The time has come for the constitutional values of the union state to be clearly and authoritatively expressed in law. To this end, we consider that the United Kingdom Parliament should pass by statute a Charter of Union designed, among other matters to embed these principles into our constitutional law.

“The Charter of Union should provide that the Scotland Act, the Government of Wales Act and the Northern Ireland Act ‘shall be construed and have effect subject to’ the Charter.

“As an Act of Parliament, the Charter of Union will be interpreted and enforced by the courts,” the authors state.

The report also says thatwhile the block grant arrangements using Barnett treat Scotland and Northern Ireland generously, that is not the case for Wales and England. It proposes scrapping it. It also points out how UK recognises Northern Ireland’s political sovereignty but not that of England, Wales and Scotland.