What taking back control really means – positive thinking beyond Brexit

I still hope that at the end of our Brexit melodrama we will find the kind of relationship with our European neighbours that:


– offers the next generation the freedom to travel and learn and make friends as true Europeans
– strengthens, not weakens, the opportunity for wealth creators to collaborate across boundaries
– strengthens, not weakens, our common security as European neighbours with common interests


How that will be achieved I have little idea. But I do know this. Even if we achieve all of the above, that doesn’t get to the heart of the changes we need to make if we are to restore faith in our democracy.


That faith will only become possible when we undertake a major devolution of power to the regions of our country building on the hopeful example of the work of elected mayors around England, and indeed the improvement in responsiveness of devolved government in Scotland and Wales. (Northern Ireland is another story!)


I live on the Suffolk coast. Our community is participating in two planning consultations at present. One is for the EDF proposal for Sizewell C, a new nuclear power station deploying the unproven technology now being built at Hinckley Point. The other is for a new substation to handle the electricity generated by wind farms in the North Sea. The two proposals affect the same area of coast, and the same citizens, tourism, and ecology. Yet the consultations are operating in separate compartments! So when people sensibly suggest that the decommissioned Sizewell A turbine hall is the optimal site for the Scottish Power renewable energy substation, they are told that this cannot be considered because Sizewell is separately managed and regulated!


There was a proposal for an elected Mayor for our region. Ironically it was vetoed by District Councils in Norfolk who feared it would disempower them! Until we get regional devolution with elected mayors who have the authority to knock heads together and champion an integrated approach to the future of their region, people will continue to feel disempowered and untrusting.


Perhaps the parliamentary battles of the last few months will convince the good people of Norfolk and elsewhere that if you really want to take back control you have to do more than rely on Westminster and Whitehall!


Of course there is much more to be done but real devolution opens the door.