The First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, has claimed that the United Kingdom “is over” and has called for a major refashioning of the union system into a “voluntary association of four nations.”
Talking at the UK Parliament’s Welsh Affairs Committee, Mr Drakeford slammed UK parliamentary sovereignty as a “redundant notion” and added that it is time for more decision-making powers to be deferred from Westminster to the devolved nations.
The Labour leader went on to describe his relationship with UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, as “remote,” criticising what he called the “relatively random basis” on which Westminster engages with the devolved nations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
“There is no institutional architecture to make the United Kingdom work. It is all ad-hoc, random, and made up as we go along. And I’m afraid that really is not a satisfactory basis to sustain the future of the UK,” Mr Drakeford lamented.
The Welsh leader pointed to COVID-19 as being a major factor in accelerating a polarisation of public opinion regarding Wales’s future in the union. Throughout the pandemic, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England have largely been handling their crises on a separate basis, with differing lockdown measures being implemented at different times.
According to Mr Drakeford, “the effect of the pandemic and the last 12 months has been to polarise opinion in Wales about the way they should be governed. What we have to do - to quote a Conservative member of the Senedd, David Melding - is we have to recognise that the union as it is, is over. We have to create a new union. We have to demonstrate to people how we can recraft the UK in a way that recognises it as a voluntary association of four nations, in which we choose to pool our sovereignty for common purposes and for common benefits.”
A recent poll demonstrated that 39% of Welsh people favoured independence over remaining part of the UK - the highest level of support ever recorded.
Drakeford's comments come hot on the heels of similar statements by Wales' former First Minister, Labour MS Carwyn Jones, who told Radio Cymru recently that the UK needs to reform the relationship between its constituent nations to survive as a union. He too suggested that the UK should adopt a more federal system in order to prevent a break-up.
“Without some kind of change I don’t believe the United Kingdom will be here in ten years," Mr Jones said.
He went on echo similar complaints to those made by Mr Drakeford, namely that there is not enough "flexibility from the UK government at the moment to secure the future of the nation."
Jones then went on to warn that independence is "an earthquake," whether it happens through a "referendum or as the result of a war."
“For me there is a different model that recognises that Wales is a sovereign country and that the United Kingdom is a union of countries that are members of that kingdom voluntarily ... Now is it too late to contemplate that situation – is it too late to offer that model to the people of Scotland – that’s something that worries. Maybe it is too late," he added.
The news comes as talk of a new independence referendum continues to gather steam in the other devolved nations of the UK. A poll carried out in January by The Sunday Times revealed that In Scotland, 52 percent back independence, while 48 percent are opposed to it.