England should be split into a number of different regions with their own elected assemblies to make devolution work for farmers after Brexit, according to an Aberystwyth University academic.
Dr Marc Welsh, who is a post-doctoral research associate at Aberystwyth University, but who was speaking in a personal capacity, made the remarks during an event on agri-sustainability in Cardiff this week.
The Brexit process has led to a battle between the devolved regions and the UK Government over where EU agricultural powers will be exercised in future.
Arguments over funding have also been frequent, with farming groups and devolved assemblies pushing for cash to be allocated outside the unpopular Barnett Formula, which is used to distribute money to the regions according to population size.
It was suggested during the Cardiff event that the Spanish model, where 17 ‘autonomous communities’ have voting rights equal to the central Government on agricultural matters, could be used as a template for future UK arrangements.
Dr Welsh said: “We need to start thinking differently about devolution.
“Part of the problem is we are trying to pretend we have four nations which in some way are comparable or equal.
“If you had much more of a federalised or regional England, then [the Spanish] model would work.
“It would work just as well because parts of England, the uplands for example, would have exactly the same sort of common cause as Wales, but at the moment it is all swamped and hidden.”
The idea of establishing elected assemblies for the English regions is not new.
Former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott pushed for their creation in North East England, North West England and Yorkshire and the Humber, but voters in the North East rejected the plans in a 2004 referendum by 78 per cent to 22 per cent.
Every council area in the region had a majority for ‘no’, and the defeat meant Labour’s devolution plans were dropped, but Dr Welsh said the idea had been ‘tried at a time when we were in a very different world’.