Federalism as relevant as ever

By Terry Bishop

Federal Union was founded over 60 years ago to foster debate on the issues concerned with federalism. Today these issues are as relevant as ever, as the United Kingdom considers both the relationship of Westminster to Brussels and the questions raised by partial devolution.

Federal Union supports constructive membership of the European Union and the principle of British membership of the monetary union. That support for continuing European integration is tempered by criticism of the present structures in the EU, and Federal Union has been actively calling for reform. The need for change has become even more urgent with the prospect of ten new member states joining within the next two years. Citizens of Europe need to feel they “own” the European institutions and to have some say in the processes which control them. Failure to reform can only encourage extremism.

Those who founded the European Union had personal experience of the horrors of totalitarianism and war. Over 50 years later, the great European experiment is an example to the world of the benefits of cooperation and the sharing of sovereignty in the pursuit of peace and prosperity.

Within Britain, the rather incoherent restructuring of the House of Lords and the lop-sided devolution process has resulted in a constitutional shambles. Power needs to be restored to local government and a proper balance of authority established between local and national elected bodies. Federal Union argues that this is best accomplished through a constitution based on federal principles.

Through the creation of local structures based on geographical regions that are recognised and understood, there is hope that the electorate can be re-engaged in the political processes.

Britain bequeathed a legacy of constitutional structures around the world, some of which survive today. It is therefore odd that the debate in Britain today is so tentative and unfocused. Federal Union has no inhibitions and our purpose is to campaign for democratic and decentralised government in Britain, in the European Union and beyond.

Terry Bishop was elected Chair of Federal Union at the AGM on 11 May 2002. He may be contacted at chair@federalunion.org.uk.

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Federal Union Committee

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