I recently proposed a new type of settlement where each of the four nations of Britain could be independently constituted as nation states yet members of a “British Isles customs union”, or BICU (Letters, October 22).
Rather than each nation have its own overpaid head of state or, worse still, keep the outdated monarchy, our head of state could be based on a “rotating presidency”.
The president’s primary role would be to chair the Council of Ministers and work to cut down the costly duplication of legislation so instead of four laws on say banning smoking or regulating marriage, there would be one law with different provisions for each nation. It could be chaired by Carwyn Jones one year, Alex Salmond the next, etc.
This “constitutional presidency” would mean we could ditch the “constitutional monarch”. Mickey Mouse is not the Governor of Florida is he? Yet he is their top tourist attraction bringing millions into the economy each year. So why do we still have one of our top tourist attractions – The Royal Family – as head of state? Disney Pixar is the most profitable company in the world, trading in fantasy around “princesses” and “princes” – why don’t we sell them the Royal Family, so they can run them 100% as a tourist attraction for taxable profit? The “Queen” could still open the Welsh legislature, but in a ceremonial way, little different to the ways some towns still employ town criers, who operate more for cultural reasons than any practical constitutional role.
I have previously expressed my objections to independence for Wales and primary legislative powers. The reasons have been because of reduced scrutiny of legislation due to unicameralism (Letters, April 14, 2004), unnecessary duplication of laws (Letters, October 1, 2002) and lack of effective use of time due to having to implement EU Directives on top on Welsh law (Letters, February 20, 2004).
Others have said independence is unaffordable because of entrappings of the state, requiring passport offices, driving licence agencies, and customs and tax offices. Welsh nationalists often draw parallels with Catalonia as a model for independence. I would however suggest another one – Benelux – the union between Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg. There is no reason why all the British nations (including Ireland) can’t be independently constituted as nation states, whilst being both members of the European Union and a “British Isles customs union.”
These “member nations” could share state apparatus, like a council of ministers and supreme court, from which BICU governments would make laws applying to all nations in the case of the former, and from which they would provide judges to resolve inter-governmental, EU and international law issues in the case of the latter. We could still have British passports and hold joint nationalities as British citizens and Welsh citizens. Our driving licences could still be issued by the DVLA , but could have “CW” for “Cymru Wales” on them instead of “UK”. It would be a big improvement on the current settlement, as not only could a new Act of Union give us more exclusive rights within the BICU, but because each nation could be independent members of the EU, the people of Wales would have greater rights to be treated equally in England than they do now. We could be a member of the euro like Ireland, and that may mean more manufacturing returning to Wales while England keeps the pound.
Jonathan believes the Assembly should deliver best value to the Welsh tax-payer. He feels an Assembly with primary legislative powers would not deliver this.
Plaid Cymru confirmed my fears that they want to turn the Assembly into a mini Westminster on Friday, when Janet Davies AM admitted to the University of Glamorgan Business School that she would like to see Wales have independent status with full law-making powers.
Assembly Members are currently able to spend two days a week helping their constituents and carrying out work in their communities.
If Plaid Cymru got their way, this time would have to be spent debating Parliamentary Bills and European Directives. The Assembly has shown that it can be very effective at policy delivery. Senior citizens and disabled people now have free bus travel, and more than 43,000 people in Wales will benefit from the Assembly Learning Grants this autumn.
We elected the Assembly Government toimprove our communities and standard of living. It is not its job to waste hours of time debating law when our MPs are more than capable of acting on behalf of us in Parliament. It would be madness to make any constitutional changes to the Assembly at a time when it’s beginning to show its relevance to the people of Wales