Brexit and the (Possible) Break-up of the UK: A Study in Failed Federalism

Presented by ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences

The ANU Centre for European Studies and the Australian Centre for Federalism are pleased to present this public lecture by Professor Iain McLean.

The vote in the UK’s 2016 referendum on leaving the European Union was regionally diverse. London, Scotland, and Northern Ireland voted to Remain, the first two strongly so. Wales, and most of England outside London, voted to Leave. Regional grievances, both in Leave and in Remain areas, have built up alongside a failure to think through any consistent form of devolution or federalism for the UK.

In the aftermath of the vote to Leave, the unity of the country is at risk. The Scottish National Party has a new reason to argue for independence. The Irish land border is such an intractable issue that it may derail the whole Brexit project, and the position of the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, which upholds the minority Conservative government, is deeply paradoxical.

In this public lecture, Professor McLean will discuss federal models that might have prevented or mitigated this mess, with reference to Australia and Canada.

Professor Iain McLean is a fellow of Nuffield College. He is a specialist in federalism and has published extensively on fiscal federalism in the UK, Canada, and Australia. A regular visitor to Canberra, he has studied the Commonwealth Grants Commission over a number of years. Born in Edinburgh and holding Irish citizenship, he is fascinated by the politics of both Scotland and Ireland. In his spare time, Professor McLean drives steam trains in Wales and sings in Anglican cathedrals.