The UUP is concerned about the future of the Union and has proposed that a Royal Commission be established to look at the future of the British constitution. A good idea considered the half baked and unfinished nature of reforms under New Labour and the advantages to a cross-party consensus on any future reforms such a Commission could assist in developing. However, one of the proposers of the motion, George Savage, has a concern over present plans to codify the constitution:
“I am concerned that this proposed codified UK Constitution will lead to the beginning of a federalized United Kingdom.”
It is argued that a reason Unionism accepted devolution in the early 1920’s was it expected similar arrangements across the UK. Until now federalism has never gained particular momentum in the UK despite regular suggestion. However, various governments happily established such systems in countries of the Empire and these have been a broad success. In social capital terms, key orgainsations in Unionist communities have ‘federal’ systems e.g. Loyal Orders, Presbyterian and other evangelical churches. Much of Unionist discourse over the past 40 years has essentially been objecting to a central authority over-ruling regional interest, a quasi-federalist postion. The equality of a federal settlement, as well as clearly answering the West Lothian question, would ensure what John Andrews argued was a key prinicple of Ulster Unionism:
“…equal rights as equal citizens in the United Kingdom”
It is not an alien idea to British political thought, it provides answers to many of the constitutional dilemmas of the unfinished reforms, a natural conclusion of past Unionist argument, has a cultural resonance in much of the Protestant section of the Unionist community and arguably fits values of broad Ulster Unionism. What are the grounds for fearing a federal UK?