Gove hints at new powers for Stormont

Michael Gove makes a point at his campaign launch at the Policy Exchange in London
Michael Gove makes a point at his campaign launch at the Policy Exchange in London

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland could be handed new powers as a result of Brexit, Michael Gove has said.

The Tory leadership candidate said that leaving the EU offered the chance to “renew and reboot” the Union as he set out his pitch to succeed David Cameron as prime minister.

Mr Gove said control over policy areas such as agriculture and fishing could go to the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh and Northern Irish assemblies.

His pitch to develop a “fairly funded, flexible and robust” Union was seized on by the SNP, who accused him of plotting to axe the Barnett Formula, which distributes funds between the nations of the UK.

Mr Gove, who was born in Edinburgh and brought up in Aberdeen, was speaking at a campaign launch a day after he declared as candidate.

He said: “This referendum has led to questions about how we stay together in one United Kingdom – and for me, in every sense, this is about family.

“In a family you listen, you treat each other with respect, you make things better.

“That is what I will do. Treating Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland with respect. Working to make things better.

“The vote to leave the European Union gives us the chance to renew and reboot the Union.

“We are taking back control of policy areas like agriculture and fishing that are vital to the economies of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the Scottish Parliament and devolved assemblies can enjoy new powers in these and other areas.

“I think we need to explore how we can develop a fairly funded, flexible and robust Union for our new circumstances – and I will work across political divides, with respect, to build that new Union.”

Mr Gove said the vote in Scotland, where 62 per cent backed Remain, raised “profound” questions and vowed to listen to Scottish public opinion.

Commenting on First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s efforts to secure Scotland’s place in the EU, he said: “I don’t want to take any precipitous steps and the First Minister has an absolute constitutional right to do as she thinks is appropriate in these circumstances.

“If she wants a prime minister who understands and believes in Scotland – and indeed somebody who has got personal friends in the SNP, who include SNP MPs, people I’ve worked with for 20 years – then I can do that.

“I can do it because the one thing I will want to do is make the United Kingdom work and I will treat with respect those people who’ve got a mandate in Scotland.”

Northern Ireland’s Finance Minister, Simon Hamilton, has discussed Brexit with a Norwegian minister.

The DUP minister met with Minister of Trade and Industry Monica Maeland at the OECD Skills Summit in Bergen, Norway. He said that in light of the interest in the ‘Norway model’ as a possible future for the UK, it had been “an unmissable opportunity to discuss Norway’s relationship with the EU”.

Meanwhile, Chancellor George Osborne has abandoned his target for cleaning up the nation’s finances by the end of the parliament after warning that Britain will no longer achieve a budget surplus by 2020.