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Only meaningful policy change and real devolution of power will achieve the 'levelling up' agenda, says academic


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A De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) academic has contributed to a major new report which underlines the challenges and opportunities that confront the UK now it has left the European Union.

Dr Arianna Giovannini deputy director of the Local Government Research Centre (LGRC) argues that without meaningful, long-term changes to socio-economic policies and real devolution of power away from central government, the so-called ‘levelling up’ agenda will never achieve its aims.

Arianna Gi head shot

The Government says it aims to tackle the inequalities which exist between prosperous areas in the South East of England and those in the North and Midlands – but so far, they’ve focused primarily on infrastructure development and investment in skills and scientific R&D.

The new report, Brexit and Beyond has been put together by think tank UK In a Changing Europe. It features articles by some of the country’s leading social scientists addressing a swathe of issues ranging from the constitution to Covid-19, from consumer protection to relations with China.

In her chapter of the report, Dr Giovannini says that any ‘levelling up’ plans should redistribute wealth, power and institutional capacity from Whitehall and Westminster and devolve power to the regions.

In some respects, this would – ironically – make the UK look more European, not less. But she argues it represents the real opportunities for Britain beyond Brexit.

She said: “Levelling up the country is essential to address long-standing regional inequalities. The twin shock of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic are likely to widen further those disparities.

“So far, the main focus of the ‘levelling up’ agenda has been on infrastructure investment in the North, and other disadvantaged areas. But large-scale infrastructure alone will not deliver the change required.

“Sustained policy action is needed on social infrastructure too from housing to skills and education and social care. Devolving power away from Westminster is also essential to realise the government’s ambition to ‘level up the country’"

More 70 academics from across the UK have contributed to the report. The collection is divided into seven sections, dealing with: policy, public opinion, politics, the UK union, the economy, Government and law, and the UK’s external relations.  

Screenshot 2021-01-19 at 09.03.39

Each of the 72 pieces has been written by a recognised expert in the field. They address key themes via a consideration of where we have come from, where we are now and where we are heading. The report aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the key issues confronting the UK in the months and years ahead.

A spokesperson for the think tank said: “As we move into the post-Brexit period, the UK in a Changing Europe will continue to act as a reliable source of expertise on the major issues confronting the UK.

“The Brexit process has and will continue to have enormous implications for politics, economics and society, and its effects will be compounded by the pandemic. Understanding these on the basis of evidence-based analysis will be crucial to ensure that public and political debates, and policy responses, meet the challenges and make most of the opportunities of the post-Brexit era.”

The UK in a Changing Europe promotes rigorous, high-quality and independent research into the complex and ever changing relationship between the UK and the EU.

It is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and is based at King's College London.

Posted on Tuesday 19th January 2021

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