Boris Johnson to chair new strategy committee tasked with saving the Union

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Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson

A new Cabinet committee tasked with saving the Union will meet for the first time next week, as Boris Johnson draws up new plans to combat the growing momentum for Scottish independence.

Senior Government sources have confirmed the Prime Minister will chair the committee, which will shape the strategy for preventing the breakup of the UK.

They also signalled that he is considering how new post-Brexit spending powers could allow the UK Government to intervene in areas that are devolved and controlled by the SNP administration.

The new Union Strategy (S) committee will complement an existing policy committee, and will be attended by Mr Johnson, Rishi Sunak, Michael Gove and the secretaries of state for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Lord Frost, who was last week promoted to the Cabinet to take charge of the UK’s future relations with the European Union, will also attend.

The two committees are closely modelled on the Brexit committees set up during negotiations with the EU, known as XO and XS.

It came as the Treasury on Wednesday announced that a £4.8bn fund to help drive regeneration was now being extended from England to cover all four nations of the UK.

The "levelling up" fund was originally announced in last year's spending review with £4 billion for town centre regeneration, local transport and cultural and heritage projects in England.#

Whitehall sources said the fund was one of the first major examples of the UKIM Act being used to help boost investment across the UK after Brexit.

Mr Johnson is also looking at how new powers set out in the UK Internal Market (UKIM) Act, which was introduced to manage the UK’s departure from the EU, could be used to increase Westminster’s involvement in Scottish affairs.

According to The Spectator, one proposal would see local councils bid for money allocated from Westminster to fund public services that might not be funded by the Scottish Government, such as drug treatment centres. This would apply across the UK.

Whitehall sources suggested the plans could be included in a new UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which will replace the EU structural funds used to support economic development and inequality across member states.

“It’s about how we can help local authorities around the UK to provide better public services, which is possible thanks to UKIM,” said one.

The Scotland Secretary, Alister Jack, has previously hinted that much of the spending in Scotland could be through local authorities.

The UKIM Act also hands the Government sweeping powers to spend in areas such as infrastructure, education, culture and sport, where ministers believe it “directly or indirectly” benefits the United Kingdom.

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