The former Labour Prime Minister told the BBC‘s Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg the Conservatives need to be careful when deciding on “cosmetic changes” that would fool the north into believing they have been given more power, following the results of the December general election. The Tories won over key Labour seats in the north of the country at the end of last year, but Mr Brown warned they should not be complacent in their victory.
He said: “While I congratulate the Conservatives on the victory, I don’t think it was a signal that the country is at ease with itself, or is united, or is even stable, politically.
“And I think the Conservatives have got to recognise that unless the United Kingdom now fundamentally changes, and I mean from top to bottom, recognising the importance of the regions and the nations and giving respect to the regions – which that was what the vote was about – I think the United Kingdom could end.”
He added: “I think we have to understand among each other that there are no certain things that the Government can do.
“They cannot be cosmetic things like moving the House of Lords from London to York or Birmingham.
“Or rotating the MPs around the regions.
“It’s got to be significant changes because I think we’ve got to recognise now, particularly after Brexit, is that we’re a highly centralised estate, we’re a multinational country, but a unitary state.
“And I think we’ve got to give people a voice in the regions and nations, as well as give them new infrastructure, as well as improve public services.
“I see the welfare state and the social contract, that is a post-war social contract in Britain, at breaking point and I think that there needs to be measures for economic security and opportunity, but we need to recognise unless the regions and the nations feel they have a voice that is respected in the United Kingdom, the United Kingdom’s 300+-year-old history may at some point soon be over.”
He will say this would act as “forerunner of a new second chamber to replace the House of Lords”.
With ministers saying that the Government is considering moving the House of Lords out of London, Mr Brown will say that more needs to be done.
He will say: “An outdated institution 200 miles or so north of its current location is still an outdated institution.
“I will argue for a Council of the North and Council of the Midlands that bring together local authorities, Mayor and MPs and in the form of a Northern Exchequer, board take powers from the Treasury over the allocation of regional resources – so that on vital issues, outlying regions and communities will no longer be governed simply by dictates from London second-guessing what they want.
“The demand for more power to the north is far greater than can be met by gimmicks or gestures given that the UK is a unitary state but a multinational country; that it is asymmetric with 83 percent of the votes at elections in England and that political, financial and administrative power has been over-concentrated in one city in the south.”