THE Union could be over within the decade, Gordon Brown has claimed.

The former Labour Prime Minister says that without reform, including a new constitution, the “United Kingdom will follow the British Empire into the history books as an anachronism whose time has passed”.

Writing in the latest issue of the New Statesman, Brown claims the coronavirus pandemic has “brutally exposed ... an inflexible, insensitive centre still trying to imprison a multinational country of diverse regions, with their own histories and needs, into the straitjacket of a unitary state”.

He says that the response to the virus revealed that Whitehall does not have a “Scottish or Welsh problem” – or a devolution problem – but a UK-wide problem.

Brown adds: “For in grappling as a country with the worst pandemic and the worst recession in living memory, fundamental flaws that go to the heart of our constitution have come to the surface.

"And it is the revolt of the regions – and of much-respected metro mayors such as Andy Burnham, Steve Rotheram, Jamie Driscoll, Dan Jarvis, Marvin Rees and Sadiq Khan – that is proving to be the game-changer. 

“It has shown that the Government does not just have a Scottish or Welsh problem: it has a UK problem.

“The pandemic has brutally exposed a centre that has control over the country’s resources but does not know what’s happening on the ground; whose own ignorance has been juxtaposed with outlying communities who have far greater local knowledge but few resources.”

The former MP has developed a “four pillar” plan for saving the Union.

It includes “more empowerment for UK regions, better joint working between the UK Governments and the devolved nations, and a new Senate of the Nations and Regions to replace the House of Lords – so that everyone in the country can feel they are listened to and respected”.

He also proposes the creation of a new constitution which would set out the “shared values and cultural bonds” across the UK.

Brown said: “The pandemic has revealed what has long been true: either we reform and renew and survive, or we resist and refuse and, in ten years’ time, having failed to act, the United Kingdom will follow the British Empire into the history books as an anachronism whose time has passed.”

He says it was “naive” of his party not to have seen that devolution could create “a megaphone for intensifying resentment”.

Brown also hit out at Boris Johnson, after the Tory leader said devolution had been a disaster. 

Brown said: “Boris Johnson’s reported ‘devolution has been a disaster’ outburst – implying his management from the centre is a great success story – shows how out of touch he is: part of a No10 faction that does not even admit that there is a problem and that the days of over-centralisation are numbered.”