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Give regions right to negotiate with EU on Brexit: Gordon Brown

By Sam Lister

Published 04/11/2016

Northern Ireland and other UK regions should be given powers allowing them to negotiate directly with the EU over parts of the Brexit settlement, Gordon Brown has suggested.

In a speech in London the former Prime Minister said the UK appears united in name only and needs wholesale constitutional reform to ease the strains caused by the referendum vote.

Scrapping the House of Lords and replacing it with an elected senate to represent different areas in the UK should be considered, he told the Fabian Society.

Mr Brown called for a constitutional convention to be set up that would look at giving Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the English regions control over areas grabbed back from Brussels, such as agriculture and fisheries, when Britain quits the bloc.

It should also look at granting the nations and regions power to deal directly with the EU to decide what links they keep with Brussels in areas like research funding for universities and the European Arrest Warrant.

The Brexit vote means that further devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should be examined, as well as a system of “co-decision making” between the UK’s four nations, the former premier said.

“This would ensure that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland could not be forced out of the European Convention on Human Rights against their will.

“We should agree that if England wishes to leave the ECHR, Scotland should have the ability either to veto that or to remain part of it,” he said.

The nations and regions should be able to sign up to international organisations that tie in with their devolved powers, Mr Brown added.

“I suggest there is now an overwhelming case for a UK-wide people’s constitutional convention, mandated with setting a roadmap towards a more federal constitution that empowers all of the nations and regions.

“The convention would focus on the areas of concern to people right across the country —  jobs, the economy and standards of living —  and ask what constitutional settlement can best meet their needs and aspirations.”

Meanwhile, a poll carried out by the Press Association found 480 MPs were intending to vote against Brexit, 159 were intending to vote for, with 11 undecided.

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