Sunday, 5 February 2017

Continuing with Gwynoro's life story - videos 11 and 12

Posted are videos nos 11 and 12 of my recollections and life story. The previous 10 are on my YouTube channel.

Eventually there will be in all some 50 uploaded - there were some 12-14 hours of filming end of 2014.  

The initial intention was to use the recordings as an aide memoire to the writing of three books that are in the pipeline for this year and next, but it was decided to place the video recordings on the channel as well, albeit that they are home video recordings.

They are being uploaded over the coming year – about one a week.

There were no rehearsals or retakes - all therefore are unedited.

Inevitably therefore some events might be not accurately recalled in datelines etc but I will correct any such errors in the books.

Gwynoro Uncut - Video 11 - his name heritage and speech impediment

Describes the background to his name;
How his grandmother disobeyed his father's instruction as to the registration of his name;
Who was he named after and the connection with St David, Patron Saint of Wales;
Speech impediment with saying the 'R' and how it became a problem at Gwendraeth G.Sc
Speech Therapy sessions
The embarrassment in pronouncing his name at times or words with the letter 'r' in them.

Gwynoro Uncut Video 12 - influence of the chapel in his teenage years

Talks about the influence of the chapel in Peniel on his teenage years;
The chapels - Peniel, Tabernacl Cefneithin, Capel Seion Drefach and Bethlehem Porthyrhyd on the whole family;
Describes a mini-revival in Peniel around 1951/52;
The possible effect that had on his father;
Describes the singing in the Dynevor Arms which was a pub just a stone's throw from Manyrafon his home

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Today's MPs would do well to remind themselves of Edmund Burke's, Speech to the Electors of Bristol

3 Nov. 1774

You choose a member indeed; but when you have chosen him, he is not member of Bristol, but he is a Member of Parliament .

If government were a matter of will upon any side, yours, without question, ought to be superior. But government and legislation are matters of reason and judgment, and not of inclination; and what sort of reason is that, in which the determination precedes the discussion;

Certainly, gentlemen, it ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinion, high respect; their business, unremitted attention.

Image result for Edmund Burke MP
But authoritative instructions; mandates issued, which the member is bound blindly and implicitly to obey, to vote, and to argue for, though contrary to the clearest conviction of his judgment and conscience,--these are things utterly unknown to the laws of this land, and which arise from a fundamental mistake of the whole order and tenor of our constitution.

Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.

Parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole; where, not local purposes, not local prejudices, ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole.

‘I am sorry I cannot conclude without saying a word on a topic touched upon by my worthy colleague. I wish that topic had been passed by at a time when I have so little leisure to discuss it. But since he has thought proper to throw it out, I owe you a clear explanation of my poor sentiments on that subject.

He tells you that "the topic of instructions has occasioned much altercation and uneasiness in this city;" and he expresses himself (if I understand him rightly) in favour of the coercive authority of such instructions.

Certainly, gentlemen, it ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents. Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinion, high respect; their business, unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own. 

But his unbiassed opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable. Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.

My worthy colleague says, his will ought to be subservient to yours. If that be all, the thing is innocent. If government were a matter of will upon any side, yours, without question, ought to be superior. But government and legislation are matters of reason and judgment, and not of inclination; and what sort of reason is that, in which the determination precedes the discussion; in which one set of men deliberate, and another decide; and where those who form the conclusion are perhaps three hundred miles distant from those who hear the arguments?

To deliver an opinion, is the right of all men; that of constituents is a weighty and respectable opinion, which a representative ought always to rejoice to hear; and which he ought always most seriously to consider. But authoritative instructions; mandates issued, which the member is bound blindly and implicitly to obey, to vote, and to argue for, though contrary to the clearest conviction of his judgment and conscience,--these are things utterly unknown to the laws of this land, and which arise from a fundamental mistake of the whole order and tenor of our constitution.

Parliament is not a congress of ambassadors from different and hostile interests; which interests each must maintain, as an agent and advocate, against other agents and advocates; but parliament is a deliberative assembly of one nation, with one interest, that of the whole; where, not local purposes, not local prejudices, ought to guide, but the general good, resulting from the general reason of the whole.

You choose a member indeed; but when you have chosen him, he is not member of Bristol, but he is a member of parliament. If the local constituent should have an interest, or should form an hasty opinion, evidently opposite to the real good of the rest of the community, the member for that place ought to be as far, as any other, from any endeavour to give it effect.

I beg pardon for saying so much on this subject. I have been unwillingly drawn into it; but I shall ever use a respectful frankness of communication with you. Your faithful friend, your devoted servant, I shall be to the end of my life: a flatterer you do not wish for.’

Right Honourable Edmund Burke

(January 1729 – July 1797) was an Irish statesman born in Dublin, as well as an author, orator, political theorist, and philosopher who, after moving to London, served as Member of Parliament for many years with the Whig Party.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

“Is it prudent? Is it possible, however we might desire it, to turn our backs upon Europe” ? – Winston Churchill

Let us not pretend that the people have spoken, because not all of them have. In fact, only 27% of people of the country voted to leave
I reproduce in full the speech delivered by David Lammy Labour MP for Tottenham during the Article 50 debate Jan 31st 2017. Along with a vintage contribution by Kenneth Clarke, Lammy made one of the most thoughtful and telling contributions.
'Many hon. Members have long believed that the United Kingdom’s interests would be best served outside the European Union. They campaigned passionately for what they believed in, and their view is that we must now leave the European Union. The Prime Minister says that she wants to deliver a Brexit that works for all and that unites our divided country. I, too, want to bring the country back together.
Members right across the House will have experienced just how divided the country became in the months leading up to last June and how divided it has become since, but we cannot bring the country back together if we pretend that it has spoken with one united voice.
People who voted to leave did so for all sorts of reasons, many of which have absolutely nothing to do with the European Union, so when the Prime Minister speaks of the will of the people, her interpretation is frankly no clearer or more precise than anyone else’s.
Let us not pretend that the people have spoken, because not all of them have. In fact, only 27% of people of the country voted to leave. Some 13 million did not vote, another 7 million eligible voters were not registered and 1 million British ex-pats were not allowed to vote. Even though the futures of 16-year-olds were on the ballot paper, they were denied a say. Only two of the four nations that make up the United Kingdom voted to leave, and there was no quadruple lock. There was no two-thirds supermajority, which is common in all other countries making major constitutional change. Even so, we are told that the people have spoken.
Look at what we have been allowed to become. In a matter of months, our public discourse has been consumed by vitriol and abuse. Hate crimes rose by 40% in the aftermath of the referendum, and we do not yet know what forces will be unleashed on our departure.
Yet it is on these terms that we are being asked to rubber-stamp a blank cheque for the Government to deliver the most extreme version of Brexit imaginable. We are being asked to ignore the fact that leaving the European Union will saddle us with a £60 billion divorce bill. We are not going to get tariff-free access to EU customers while rejecting free movement; that is not on the table. We are not going to get a more favourable trading agreement with Europe from outside the single market; that is a paradox. We are not going to come to a full agreement with Europe within two years; believing otherwise completely flies in the face of precedent and all evidence.
Exiting without a deal and falling back on the World Trade Organisation rules is being talked about as though that is a good option. That is totally wrong—it would be an absolute disaster for this country. Even on the optimistic assumption that we can sign trade agreements all over the world, this does not even come close to making up for the loss of the single market. We are facing a return to a hard border in Northern Ireland and a breakdown of the Union with Scotland. We are not reclaiming sovereignty, another promise that falls apart under any scrutiny: we are transferring it to a negotiation behind closed doors.
Doctors are against it, scientists are against it, the financial services sector is against it, and manufacturers are against it because of their exports, but these people are dismissed—and why? - because these days we do not listen to experts.
Yes, we are leaving, but it is the EU nations that decide how we leave and what we end up with. Where will this end in 2019? We do not know. Outside the single market, for sure, and outside the customs union, with no trade deal with Europe or anywhere else, our only friend President Trump—a man who has demonstrated why we should worry greatly about a free trade agreement that will probably lead to Kaiser Permanente running the NHS.​
We should not fool ourselves. This is not, and never has been, a debate about the economy; it has always been about immigration. We are staring down the barrel of a hard Brexit because immigration has been prioritised over everything else: the economy, jobs, and living standards.
We were told during the campaign that we could cut immigration without hitting our economy. We were sold the lie that immigrants come here and take more than they contribute. Between 1995 and 2011, European immigrants made a net contribution of £4.4 billion to our public services. In the same period, our native population cost us £591 billion. Our economy cannot exist without people coming here to do the jobs that people in the country either do not want or do not have the skills to do.
It is almost half a century since a Member of this House, in a very different era, made these same warnings of
“wives unable to obtain hospital beds in childbirth…children unable to obtain school places”
“homes and neighbourhoods changed beyond recognition”.
How far we have fallen when a black British Member of Parliament, of African and Caribbean descent, has to stand here quoting Enoch Powell. It is the easy option to blame migrants who come here with skills instead of successive Governments, both Conservative and Labour, who have failed: failed to educate our own to compete, failed to build affordable housing, failed to fund our public services, and failed to ensure that growth is felt outside of London and the south-east.
A hard Brexit will not deal with any of the long-standing structural problems highlighted by the Brexit vote—it will make them worse. The real tragedy is that Whitehall and Parliament, so consumed with Brexit for the next decade, will have no capacity to deal with these hard-pressing issues.
There are Conservative Members who have been dreaming of a low-tax, low-wage, low-regulation offshore tax haven for decades, and now they have it in their grasp, they salivate at the thought of us becoming the new Singapore. I am not going to stand with them. If we let the Prime Minister pursue this reckless course—this Brexit at any cost—we know who will suffer. It will be the poorest, many of whom are in my constituency.
The referendum was not just about votes from the north; 52% of leave voters lived in the south of England, 59% were middle class and 58% voted Conservative in 2015. I remind my colleagues who are worried about this, and who are thinking of voting with the Government, of those things.
Let me finish by asking one simple question, which was once asked by one of our most celebrated parliamentarians:
“Is it prudent? Is it possible, however we might desire it, to turn our backs upon Europe”?

When Churchill spoke those words, he was talking about appeasement, and he was going very much against the prevailing wind. The same is true today. Patriotism requires more than just blind faith. We must remember our history, our values, what we represent and what we stand for. Most of all, we must remember what we stand against. For all those reasons, and for the sake of this country that I love, I will be voting against triggering article 50'.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Tuesday January 10 the Wales Bill will resume its passage through the House of Lords and Lord Elystan Morgan continues to attempt to make a fundamental change .

The concept of devolution which espouses principles of domestic rule and subsidiarity inevitably rests fundamentally upon the acceptance of what I would call the ‘watershed’ of justice and reason.

A denial of this watershed is both an affront to common sense but also a betrayal and a devaluation of devolution.

Image result for lord elystan morgan

This Tuesday January 10th  2017 Lord Elystan Morgan is proposing an amendment to the Wales Bill to direct the Secretary of State for Wales to establish a Working Party to report to Parliament within 3 years as to the operation of the reserved powers retained by Westminster under the bill - particularly those matters which can properly be regarded as belonging to the province of the devolved Parliament.

The function of the working party would be to winnow out the dozens of trivial matters whose inclusion in the Reserved Powers list is an affront to Welsh nationhood and would never have been considered in the 1950s in the context of a British colony in the Caribbean or Africa.

Lord Elystan Morgan goes on to say

‘I venture to think that the proposed amendment is of the most crucial importance to the Welsh devolution settlement in that it seeks to correct a fatal flaw in the heart and cornel of that settlement.

The concept of devolution which inevitably espouses principles of domestic rule and subsidiarity inevitably rests fundamentally upon the acceptance of what I would call the watershed of justice and reason.

This is no more and no less than an acceptance that while certain matters belong inevitably to the mother Parliament (Westminster), such as succession to the Crown, Defence and Foreign Policy; the vast bulk of the remainder are matters which palpably belong to the jurisdiction of the devolved parliament (the Welsh Assembly).

A denial of this watershed is both an affront to common sense but a betrayal and devaluation of devolution.

This is what exactly what the bill creates in Wales when functions such as liquor licensing (devolved to Wales in 1881) and the organisation of charitable collections! are set amongst the Reserved Powers.

I would expect the Working Party to report to represent the broadest interests in Wales both socially and politically.

If the Secretary of State wishes to have a working party ‘off the shelf’ he could do no better than invite the Silk Committee to sit again, remembering that this distinguished body represented all political opinions has reported twice – unanimously and constructively – upon Welsh devolution.

Lord Elystan Morgan explains the background to the current Wales Bill.

Why has it arisen?

What are the implications?

What we have is a diminution of the powers we once had and it is a Devaluation of Devolution.

In July 2014 the Supreme Court, presided over by the Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, was required to decide upon the crucial issue of exactly where the boundary lay between Westminster and Cardiff in relation to devolution.

The matter before the court was the desire of the Welsh Assembly to pass its own legislation in relation to agricultural workers wages in Wales.

Image result for lord elystan morgan

The case for the Westminster government, presented by the then Attorney General, was essentially that a decision as to wages belonged classically to the field of employment.

The Supreme Court found differently and said that whenever there was in any one of the twenty fields of devolved authority an intention to transfer substantial powers to Wales, then unless there was a specific exemption to that effect, all other powers belonged to the Welsh Assembly.

This is what the Supreme Court called the ‘silent transfer’.

The consequence of the ruling was mindboggling in that :

-     It was clear that huge areas (hitherto ‘silent’) had in fact been unwittingly transferred to the Welsh Assembly;

-       That in many other areas there could have been no certainty that matters had not in fact been transferred.

The current Wales Bill settlement proposal and controversy therefore emanates directly from that uncertainty and that the devolution that will be enjoyed by Wales when and if the Bill receives the Royal Assent will be much less than that day the Supreme Court judgement was given.

Whether that diminution of devolution authority will be of the order 10% to 30% is highly debatable but on any view it will be substantial.

So what we have therefore is a diminution of the powers we once had and it is a devaluation of devolution.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Gwynfor had a deep antipathy towards the Labour Party and its Government

Elystan Morgan reminiscing - Plaid Cymru, Saunders Lewis and Gwynfor Evans.

Last in the series - very interesting

Elystan Morgan discusses the different characteristics of Saunders Lewis and Gwynfor Evans.

Outlines Gwynfor's deep antipathy towards the Labour Party and its Government.

Gwynfor's words to Elystan when told that he was joining the Labour Party - 'the party of Bessie Braddock'.

The difficulties he faced inside Plaid Cymru from the party's left wingers - some of them on the far left.

In the years prior to the by election in Carmarthen in 1966 Gwynfor had been facing significant pressures from within the party over its failure of electoral progress and especially after the controversy over Tryweryn.

But seemingly fate intervened!

Initially when Lady Megan Lloyd George was chosen by the Labour Party instead of  the young John Morris (by one vote) in 1957, then the decision made by the local Labour party not to select someone to contest the March 1966 General Election, despite the fact that Lady Megan was terminally ill and finally the choice of the North Walian Gwilym Prys Davies to contest the Carmarthen by election of July 1966 instead of the local candidate from Cynwyl Elfed, Denzil Davies.

Gwynoro describes how people in the Gwendraeth and Amman Valleys were telling him when campaigning during the by-election how they did not 'understand' Gwilym Prys speaking with his deep North Wales accent.
Elystan then relates a similar story when he was campaigning in Anglesey and with Cledwyn Hughes in Llangefni 1979.

Monday, 12 December 2016

A Constitutional Continuum...

A guest essay by Glyndwr Cennydd Jones.

This substantial piece leads on from his previous essay titled ‘Towards federalism and beyond published on this website in July 2016. Writing in a personal capacity, Glyndwr is an advocate for greater cross-party consensus in Wales.

Summarising the nature and functions of today’s United Kingdom (UK), the introduction to the report titled Devolution and the Future of the Union (Constitution Unit, University College London: April 2015) explains that the ‘economic union provides the UK with a single market, with a single currency and strong central fiscal regime. The social union provides the social solidarity which binds the UK together, by redistributing revenue, and pooling and sharing risk through welfare benefits and pensions. In the political union, every part of the UK is represented in the Westminster Parliament, which manages the economic and social unions, and as the sovereign parliament can itself reshape the political union.’ However, the report goes on to highlight that ‘Whitehall lacks capacity to think about the Union because it has relegated it to issues of devolution on the fringes’ and that ‘devolution policy making has become rushed to the point of recklessness.’

This observation is mirrored in the Constitutional Convention report (Institute of Welsh Affairs: April 2015) of the same month which asserts that ‘policies around the UK and the union have been dealt with in an ad-hoc and reactive manner and there has been little cohesive thought to address the role of the union as a whole.’ Interestingly, respondents to the convention felt that ‘UK Government policies were often detrimental to Wales and not in keeping with the grain of public opinion’ and that there was a lack of ‘vision about what the union should provide for each person in the UK regardless of whether they live in Belfast or Bangor’.

These challenges have been brought sharply into focus over recent years through the increasingly differentiated politics across the four nations as well as the vigorous debates about English Votes for English Laws, a second independence referendum for Scotland and the Wales Bill 2016-17. For example, a consultation on the design options for an English Parliament is presently in progress at the Constitution Unit, University College London. The outcome of the European Union (EU) referendum in June 2016 has compounded events even further, particularly in relation to determining the correct constitutional process for triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

The UK Supreme Court, last week, heard cases for and against whether Parliament not Government should have the authority to activate the process for exiting the EU. Speaking on behalf of the First Minster of Wales, Carwyn Jones, public law barrister Richard Gordon QC stressed in his written submission that the UK is now ‘a voluntary association of nations which share and redistribute resources and risks between us to our mutual benefit and to advance our common interests.’ He elaborated by explaining that the Assembly exercises a plethora of powers through EU law and that ‘devolution is about how the UK is collectively governed by four administrations which are not in a hierarchical relationship to one to another.’ The tone of this assertion is enlightening as the language alludes to a more quasi-federal framework of relationships between the four nations rather than the devolved and reserved powers model in place within an overarching unitary state.

Pausing for a moment, we should not underestimate the extent to which the UK’s entry to the EU during the 1970s tempered a measure of perceptible disenchantment across the isles at a time when constitutional matters had just been explored in some detail by the Crowther/Kilbrandon Royal Commission, resulting in the devolution referenda of March 1979 in Scotland and Wales. It could be suggested that EU membership was instrumental in promoting respect for the rich cultural diversity of peoples within the UK and the range of languages spoken.

If we are indeed approaching a crossroads of sorts in our island journey, what are the alternative models of governance available? With consideration that we are all intrinsically linked culturally and historically in modern times through shared industrial, political and international experiences—whilst acknowledging the assorted ancient traditions of our roots—this question prompts a range of responses depending on where one places an emphasis on the economic to social measuring scale. An alternative way of posing the problem might be to ask how we could better set about empowering the people of these isles from Lands End to John o’ Groats and Londonderry to Newcastle in improving standards of living and personal fulfilment through a political system and ensuing policies which promote economic success regionally, nationally and globally whilst maintaining internal and external security...

It was Ron Davies, former Secretary of State for Wales, who said before the dawn of the Welsh Assembly in 1999 that ‘devolution is a process not an event’. Though wholly appropriate at the time, it was a statement most likely born of an acknowledgement that the arrangements for Wales would limit the likelihood of progress from the beginning, particularly when compared with the robust powers offered to Scotland. The journey ever since has been one of uncertainty, lacking in strategic direction. Lord Elystan Morgan recently summed up this viewpoint by explaining: ‘when you deal with a long period of transferring small powers, day in day out... you create a situation that almost guarantees some constitutional neurosis on the part of Welsh lawyers’. He further asserts that ‘the Wales Bill 2016-17 is deeply flawed and a blue print for failure and disaster’ particularly because of the ‘fact that there are about two hundred reservationsthe very nature of which makes the matter a nonsense.’

Does a dependency governance structure predictably result in a dependency culture, to which despite eloquent arguments to the contrary, the economic profile of the UK’s constituent parts might uncomfortably attest?  Does a unitary state system with devolution included as an adjunct compare awkwardly to the relationship between a parent/guardian and a young person in terms of developing accountability and responsibility?  Is it only by seeking greater independence that individuals are empowered to make informed decisions and accept the consequences of their actions in time—and to take account of the legitimate concerns and opinions of others for the wider benefit? In national terms, there is indeed a clear distinction between the existentialist and utilitarian views of self-government. The former demands more autonomy simply because of a belief that it is the natural right for nations, and the latter considering it as a path to a better society—to achieve the most effective political unit to secure the economic growth and social justice that people deserve.
So any constitutional settlement for these isles must take account of the economic and social interrelationships between the four nations. Such considerations are critical in a political environment where the EU cannot be relied upon as the mechanism for implementing shared policies and practices in the future. The report titled A Constitutional Crossroads: Ways Forward for the United Kingdom (Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law: May 2015) highlights that the ‘border between England and Wales is crossed about 130,000 times each day’ and that ‘forty-eight per cent of the Welsh population lives within 25 miles of the border with England.’ Many people living in Wales have close family and friends in England as well as vice versa. Human considerations of this kind cannot be ignored in the discussion. The Bingham report recommends that the ‘UK should remain a fully integrated single market with a single currency and common macro-economic framework in which citizens are free to live, to work, to trade and to retire without legal impediment.’

It is therefore essential that the ‘four countries of the Union severally and together commit to the principle of shared solidarity, collaborating for the common good and for economic and social cohesion across the UK as whole.’ This statement is taken from the report titled The UK’s Changing Union: Towards a new Union (Wales Governance Centre, Cardiff University: February 2015) which explores some of the potential core principles underpinning a possible settlement. In particular it goes on to suggest that the ‘parties to the Union acknowledge the dominant role of England within it and that England has its needs and rights, but that England also acknowledges that the asymmetry between it and the other nations is of such a scale as to require tempering, in the interests of fairness, by the introduction of a range of institutional mechanisms.’

What are the specific governance options available to our island community? To continue on the present course is to accept constitutional uncertainty and political vulnerability as illustrated by the recent lively debates on the proposed Wales Bill 2016-17 in both Houses of Parliament and the process for triggering Article 50 in the UK Supreme Court. Devomax may rank as an attractive solution to some, but even this does not address the ambiguity and complexity introduced by the general primacy of Westminster and the inherent challenges presented by the unitary state model—accompanied by the now disconcerting shadow of a potentially hard ‘Brexit’ imposed on all four nations.

It has been broadly suggested that the answer rests somewhere in a ‘system of government in which central and constituent nation authorities are linked in an interdependent political relationship, in which powers and functions are distributed to achieve a substantial degree of autonomy and integrity in the national units. In theory, such a system seeks to maintain a balance such that neither level of government becomes sufficiently dominant to dictate the decision of the other, unlike in a unitary system, in which the central authorities hold primacy to the extent even of redesigning or abolishing constituent nation and local units of government at will’. This is the definition of federalism offered by the New Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thought (HarperCollins 2000), with the word ‘regional’ replaced by the term ‘constituent nation’ as italicised for the contextual purpose of this essay.

A Federation of the Isles could indeed bond the principles of empowerment and responsibility with accountability and authority to provide constitutional clarity and stability across the constituent nations and the whole, especially with established mechanisms in place to progress joint interests and resolve disputes. It would also capitalise on the potential for realising economies of scale in the application of some key centrally-held functions—such as currency, defence, foreign relations and the internal market—as well as a greater projection of political influence to attract investment internationally. Examples of federations include Germany and the USA.

Others hint at a League or Union of the Isles as a solution. This model could be summarised as a form of confederation established by treatyin contrast to a federal constitutionwhich addresses the crucially shared interests of internal trade and currency as well as defence and foreign relations, if so desired. Under a confederation-type arrangement the central body is relatively weak,  compared with a federal parliament, as decisions made by a ‘council’ of member nations would require subsequent implementation by the individual nations to take effect. These pronouncements are therefore not laws acting directly upon individual members, but instead have more the character of agreements between nations.

A League or Union of the Isles presents to each member nation the advantages and challenges of acting as an independent state within an isles-wide alliance. A treaty on issues of joint concern would aim to mitigate the risks associated with fragmenting previously delivered common functions. However, competitive considerations between member nations would have more prominence when negotiating within a confederation-type relationship, balanced against the consensus-built model offered by federalism. In addition, the probable cost savings realised through the operation of officially shared mechanisms in key areas would not be secured. Interestingly, a League or Union of the Isles could invite the participation of the Republic of Ireland if it so wished. The Benelux and European Unions are examples of this kind of understanding.
Wales as a nation state within the EU is worth mentioning as a model for further exploration in time, but would not be realistically workable if England—Wales’s largest social and trading partner—was not also in the EU. A form of League or Union of the Isles would need to be in place to facilitate the necessary economic, political and social relationships. The Welsh public also effectively voted against EU membership in June 2016. It goes without saying that an independent Wales acting on its own outside European or isles-wide agreements would have limited longevity, doing little to improve the population’s standard of living. Some might suggest that Wales’ operational interactions with England could be satisfactorily addressed by a bilateral treaty, but this approach is likely to prove unsustainable over time with uncertainty in collective aims discouraging business investment, accompanied by a general drift of capital and employment prospects towards the larger partner in the east.

Similar could be said of an Atlantic Union comprising treaties between Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and potentially the Republic of Ireland—with all participants in the EU too. This model has little economic and geographical traction. For example, Scotland may find access to greater opportunities through participation in a Scandinavian treaty of some description, and the Republic of Ireland is already a long-standing member of the EU on its own accord—does it need to concern itself directly and singularly with Wales at this level of formality? 
So to answer the question posed, there are indeed constitutional alternatives to the present unitary system with devolution tagged on since 1999. In early November 2016, Lord David Owen issued a pamphlet calling for a cross-party convention to consider the creation of a federal council modelled on the German Bundesrat. He writes passionately that such an institution could help unite the UK in the aftermath of the EU referendum and ‘restore our very democracy which had been distorted by the false claim of post-modernism that the days of the nation-state were over. Far from being over‘ Lord Owen insists that ‘national identity, whether it be Scottish, Welsh, Irish or English deserves to be treasured as a binding force, not a divisive one. It all depends on whether we can find the correct balance.’ The pamphlet goes on to explore a federal model which invites participation of the English regions. A similar outlook was expressed simultaneously by Gordon Brown in an article titled A Revolt of the Regions (New Statesman: 3  November 2016). The former Prime Minister’s intervention prompted the following joint statement by London Mayor Sadiq Khan; First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones, and mayoral candidate for Greater Manchester Andy Burnham: ‘Only by achieving a new, fair settlement for all nations and regions can we be sure of saving the UK from further fracture’ and ‘tackling rising inequality’.
Another report titled Federal Britain: The Case for Decentralisation (Institute of Economic Affairs: 2015) advocates ‘a federal state...with Scotland...England, Wales and Northern Ireland separately, becoming nations within a federal union. The federal government should have a very limited number of powers including defence, foreign affairs and border control and a small parliament and executive.’ It affirms that ‘no other proposed solution to the English question can provide the same stability or beneficial economic outcomes.’  The establishment of a federal UK with England, as one unit, alongside Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland presents opportunities and challenges in terms of a proposed constitutional settlement for these isles. For Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the real challenge of such a structure is that England’s population equates to over 84 per cent of the whole, approximately accounting for 55 million individuals of an overall 65 million. London’s economic prominence is also a significant consideration.
England, as a nation, is indeed a better counterpart to Wales and Scotland for participation in a federal configuration than the English regions, due to its stronger political and social cohesion. However, a bicameral federal parliament—formed to deliver those responsibilities consigned to a central level as defined by a written constitution—with an upper chamber comprising representatives of London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast would inescapably raise questions around the number of votes assigned to each constituent nation if influenced by population sizes. This approach is explored by David Melding in his book Will Britain Survive Beyond 2020 (Institute of Welsh Affairs: 2009).  A constitutional court would strive to guard the privileges of all governance levels, but any counter-balancing mechanisms introduced to support the sharing of authority centrally must be easily understood by the civil service, politicians and public to ensure coherence and harmony. An alternative would be a unicameral model.
An English government would, in principle, be supported by the authorities of Greater London and other city regions at the direct level of governance beneath—mitigating the risk of over-centralisation in relation to the sizeable population of England. The historical counties may also aspire to an aspect of autonomy. Quite naturally, the actions and choices of one constituent nation could have negative or positive consequences on others in a federal arrangement as highlighted in the report A Federal Future for the UK: The Options (Federal Trust for Education and Research: July 2010). Various scenarios would need to be deliberated earnestly when designating powers within a constitution, including appropriate instruments for resolving disagreements.  Governments must be discouraged from misusing any possible advantages they possess on specific issues. Areas of potential contention might include, for example, the economy of England, the oil of Scotland and the water of Wales.
In April 2016, the Wales Governance Centre at Cardiff University issued a report titled Government Expenditure and Revenue: Wales 2016 which identified total public sector revenue in Wales as £23.3 billion for 2014-15, approximately 3.6% of total UK revenues of £648.8 billion. The largest source of Welsh revenue was Value Added Tax followed by Income Tax and National Insurance Contributions. This composition contrasted significantly with the UK as a whole where direct taxes such as Income Tax and Corporation Tax constituted a larger proportion. The report also estimated managed expenditure in Wales for the same period as £38 billion, approximately 5.2% of total UK expenditure of £737.1 billion. Social protection accounted for most of Welsh expenditure, including social security payments and pensions etc, followed by health and education. The Assembly government in Cardiff and local authorities were responsible for 53% of this total spend with the remainder attributed to UK government departments.  Therefore, greater fiscal devolution presents opportunities and risks. In the medium to long term much depends on how a more influential Welsh government and an informed public respond to financial empowerment, whilst questions remain on how the deficit should be supported during transition whether through adjustment of the Welsh block grant and/or borrowing.

A federal parliament, most likely London-based, would need to promote equality in sharing baseline investment, particularly in relation to a redistribution of a proportion of the joint prosperity generated through the federal capital to the constituent nations. To again quote from the report titled UK’s Changing Union: Towards a new Union (Wales Governance Centre, Cardiff University: February 2015) we should explore a ‘system for determining the fair distribution and redistribution of financial resources on a clear statutory basis...designed to be equitable between all parties on the basis of examination of needs and with no expectation that transfers would be continued when needs had been met satisfactorily.’

Despite the comparative scale of England contrasted with Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the benefits of moving towards a federal arrangement significantly outweigh the challenges faced. Gwynoro Jones, an experienced political commentator on matters of Welsh devolution, went on the record in September 2016 as stating ‘I believe that the future lies, at the very least, in a self-governing Wales within a Federal UK. An argument can be made for going further...’  The impetus required to initiate progress from the unitary state model—with devolved and reserved powers allocated variously across the piece—is presently gathering apace. As already highlighted, this momentum is underpinned by the increasingly differentiated politics across the four nations and the spirited deliberations about English Votes for English Laws, a second independence referendum for Scotland, the Wales Bill 2016-17, Brexit and even the Trump phenomenon which, to some degree, has implications beyond the USA.
On balance, the progressively sustainable model rests somewhere between a Federation and, in time, a League or Union of the Isles. In the crudest of terms, the former option has aspects of a safety net deployed with shared mechanisms for core functions and policy portfolios to support the realisation of economies of scale in delivery, and greater projection of joint interests across constituent nations and the world. The latter option allows for consensus building and negotiation between fully empowered member nations, but with some risk of competitive considerations and disputes holding-up relationships. A League or Union-type model might be to England’s advantage more than Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland due to its larger economy and size of population, but we should not underestimate our shared concerns, as an island community, in defence, social mobility and trade for which an incline towards Federation would provide constitutional clarity, comfort and confidence.
To paraphrase an old Chinese curse which doubles as an expression of the opportunity change presents ‘We live in interesting times’.