A League-Union of the Isles

Constitutional reflections and renewal

Published: 28 March 2022

Glyndwr Cennydd Jones, Fellow of the Institute of Welsh Affairs and advocate for a UK-wide constitutional convention, has launched his new e-book A League-Union of the Isles, now available to read, download and print. In this blog, he takes us through the essays included in the book, a collection of his constitutional writing since 2016.

By Glyndwr Cennydd Jones

March 2022 sees the release of the e-book, A League-Union of the Isles. Conceived as a reflection on my constitutional writing since 2016, and specifically how I came to settle on a model of confederal-federalism, it includes the following essays.

Towards Federalism and Beyond (June 2016), a swift response to the outcome of the Brexit referendum, highlighting the challenges facing Wales in economic and social terms. In it, I advocate the immediate need for a campaign to redefine the UK as a federation so that those competences returning from the EU could be suitably allocated to the nations, along with other much needed reforms to the arrangements underpinning devolution.

A Constitutional Continuum (December 2016), an exploration of developing momentum for fundamental change and reform amongst many academics, politicians and the public at large, specifically investigating potential models of governance based on partnership principles including federalism and confederalism.

In early 2017, my rediscovery of the article Confederal Federalism and Citizen Representation in the European Union (1999) by Professor John Kincaid, took my developing continuum considerations to more nuanced ground.

A Federation or League of the Isles? (July 2017), an in-depth discussion of federalism, confederalism, and more significantly—that possible middle ground—confederal-federalism. Not wishing to alienate the generally moderate elements of both unionism and nationalism to the substance of the proposition, I labelled the model a League-Union of the Isles and embarked on setting out a detailed description of what such a framework might look like.

This essay also appeared in a joint booklet with Lord Elystan Morgan and Lord David Owen in September 2017, launched to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the vote to establish the National Assembly of Wales. A second joint booklet followed in February 2018.

From the start, I had imagined constructing an argument that would encompass the main drivers and influences of geography, history, industry, peoples and politics on our island story, whilst synthesising the evidence in a manner clearly to advance the case for a constitutional compromise of strategic significance. 

These Isles (April 2019), is my contribution to the developing constitutional debate not only in Wales, but in the context of the UK as a whole. The exposition frames the question as follows: ‘With many today asserting a multicultural Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish, or English character along with a form of dual nationality which embraces a British personality, it is reasonable to reconsider the nature of Westminster’s parliamentary sovereignty. The pressing issue of our time relates to whether sovereignty, as currently understood, should be shared across these five territorially defined identities (including that of Britain) in a traditional federal arrangement, or instead assigned individually to the four nations—Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and England—which in turn could delegate parts of their sovereign authority to common central institutions of a fundamentally British composition, and/or European.’

These Isles was followed by the briefing paper Constitutional Relationships and Sovereignty in these Isles (September 2019) and its infographic supplement Illustrated Constitutional Models and Exemplar Principles (September 2019).

From December 2019, I acted as an external commissioner on Plaid Cymru’s constitutional Independence Commission. Its report Towards an Independent Wales was published in September 2020. In it, the model of a League-Union of the Isles was publicly presented as an option alongside the Benelux model, proposed by Adam Price MS.

A sovereign Wales in an Isles-wide Confederation (February 2021) was an opportunity for me to state on the record why an isles-wide constitutional model of confederal-federalism is a more suitable proposition than that of federalism, a loose confederation, or an independent Wales acting solely within the EU. In it, I suggest that: ‘Devolution involves a sovereign Westminster, in effect, delegating a measure of sovereign authority to the devolved institutions. A League-Union of the Isles turns this constitutional approach on its head, advocating four sovereign nations of radically different population sizes delegating some sovereign authority to central bodies in agreed areas of common interest such as internal trade, currency, large-scale economic considerations, defence and foreign policy, with the British monarch continuing in role.'

Today, we are confronted by unprecedented constitutional challenges and tests which require exploration of fresh solutions and governance models for the future, and this is what my booklet aims to present.

As the world now knows to its cost, climate change, pandemics, conflict, and economic repercussions respect no national boundaries. We should therefore approach our constitutional deliberations in the spirit of consensus-building and cooperation, and with a firm eye on the needs and aspirations of those future generations who will call these isles their home...

I leave the final word to Carwyn Jones, First Minister of Wales from 2009 to 2018, who in his preface writes:

"Glyndwr has been an important part of the debate around constitutional futures and I welcome his latest contribution to the ideas that have been generated, particularly in the aftermath of Brexit. We will all have our thoughts as to what the future relationships between the nations of these islands should look like but it is important that there is an informed debate on what kind of future would get the greatest possible support from the public."

Read, download and print League-Union of the Isles

 

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