Breaking up is hard to do? Devolution and the sovereignty dilemma of post-Brexit UK




Brexit, devolution, path dependence, regional differentiation, sovereignty


Brexit was ostensibly about the assertion of sovereignty of the UK parliament in ‘taking back control’ from the EU. The UK government believed it could reimpose the traditional sovereignty view practised prior to joining the then European Economic Community. However, changes since then mean that within the UK’s ambiguous constitutional order account must be taken of the 1998 devolution of certain powers to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

This article addresses this sovereignty dilemma in post-Brexit UK against a background of both EU withdrawal and regional differentiation. The UK government’s post-Brexit push for centralisation has raised the stakes as regions seek to accommodate the centripetal force of their intra-UK economic relations with the centrifugal force of their culture and identity. It is argued that path dependence formed from the shared experience of the evolving institution of devolution promotes that accommodation thereby offering a path to a viable and unified UK.

Author Biography

Russell Solomon, RMIT University

Dr Russell Solomon has a PhD from the University of Sydney and teaches law in the Global, Urban and Social Studies School at RMIT University. His current research interests include the impact of Brexit, particularly in relation to rights in the United Kingdom as well as issues around juridification and the protection of rights in the European Union. Other research areas include anti-discrimination law, bills of rights and the implementation of economic and social rights.


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