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Devolution, Asymmetry and Europe

Multi-Level Governance in the United Kingdom


Rosanne Palmer

The process of devolution in the United Kingdom (UK) established new institutions at the sub-state level with a range of legislative and executive competencies. Yet many of these devolved powers also have a European Union (EU) dimension, whilst EU policy remains a formally reserved power of the UK central government.
This book explores how this multi-level relationship has been managed in practice, examining the participation of the devolved Scottish and Welsh institutions in the domestic process of formulating the UK’s EU policy positions during their first four-year term. It also places their experiences in a broader comparative framework by drawing upon the experiences of multi-level governance in practice in other Member States of the EU.


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INTRODUCTION. Multi-Level Governance in the United Kingdom 13


INTRODUCTION Multi-Level Governance in the United Kingdom Devolution in the United Kingdom (UK) formed a central element of the constitutional reform programme of the Labour Government elected in May 1997. This process of devolution recognised the territorial differentiation evident in the United Kingdom and substantively altered structures of territorial governance. Literature on devolution in the UK, both from the 1990s and from the earlier 1970s debate, suggests an agreement that devolution involves the transfer of powers from a supe- rior decision-making body to an inferior one (Bogdanor, 1999: 2; Bradbury & Mawson, 1997: 11). In the case of the UK, these sub- ordinate bodies are directly elected and relate to specific geographical areas — Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. In the following discus- sion, devolution is thus interpreted as signifying "the transfer to a sub- ordinate elected body, on a geographical basis, of functions...exercised by ministers and Parliament." (Bogdanor, 1999: 2) As this devolution process unfolded, it necessarily led to a re- adjustment in government structures within the UK. It also contributed to a recalibration of relations between the UK and the European Union (EU) by reshaping the system of interaction between the multiple levels of government and governance within the UK. The introduction of devolution thus created the opportunity to examine a newly evolving model of multi-level governance in an EU Member State — the EU- related activities of the devolved Scottish and Welsh institutions and the attitudes and reactions of the central government towards these changed circumstances. The unpredictable nature of...

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