Only a re-working of the constitution can bring the UK back togetherby Gordon Brown / November 15, 2016 / Leave a comment
Today, the United Kingdom appears united in name only.
Already the strains of the European referendum result are showing, as different nations, regions, sectors and companies desperately seek their own opt-outs from a hard Brexit.
But the demand for an a la carte Brexit is only the surface manifestation of deep divisions across the country.
Lying behind the popular revolt on 23rd June are huge structural inequalities that divide north and south and which the current government is failing to address.
Northern unemployment rates—6.8 per cent in the northeast—are almost twice as high as in the south. Last year, the number of workforce jobs in the northeast fell by 40,000 and rose by only 1,000 in the northwest while, in contrast, London and the south east gained 277,000 jobs.
Since 2010, the northeast with four per cent of the population has produced just three per cent of the country’s Gross Value Added and secured only two per cent of the new jobs. The northwest with 11 per cent of the population has produced only nine per cent of the GVA and delivered only seven per cent of the new jobs. And Yorkshire and Humberside with eight per cent of the population has been responsible for 6.5 per cent of the GVA and only six per cent of the new jobs. By contrast, London and the southeast with 26.8 per cent of the population has 37.7 per cent of the GVA and secured 39 per cent of the new jobs. In fact, half of the new jobs created since 2010 went to London, the south east and the east.
Sadly, the post-referendum optimism felt by “Leave” voters in the north will be short-lived. More dependent on trade with Europe than the south, the north will lose jobs faster.
Economically, Britain is becoming two nations—a prosperous south east and a permanently struggling north—with, at the centre, a London economy which is appearing to decouple from the periphery of the country.
The problem: inequality
The revolt of Britain’s regions on 23rd June was driven by discontent, anger and in some cases resentment at growing inequalities.
A study by Professor Philip McCann has found that the UK’s regional inequalities in income are now among the largest in Europe. The average household adjusted disposable…