George Osborne 'optimistic' of progress on Yorkshire devolution

George Osborne
George Osborne
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George Osborne has refused to be drawn into the row over Yorkshire devolution but expressed optimism that region will reach a break-through.

The former Chancellor told the Yorkshire Post that he took "encouragement" from the recent announcement of a deal for Tyneside that Yorkshire councils will find a solution - despite the apparent stalemate.

Addressing journalists, he also issued a warning to Theresa May not to ignore the concerns of the 48 percent of people who voted to remain in the EU last year.

Pointing to the result of the June snap election, he suggested the Conservatives could end up paying the price for a Hard Brexit next time the country goes to the polls.

The comments from the former MP follow months of highly critical interventions in his new role as the editor of the Evening Standard.

Although the paper encouraged voters to back the Tories in this year's election, Mr Osborne has frequently used columns to attack the current Conservative administration.

Pressed for his views on Mrs May's leadership at an event in Westminster, he predicted that the Prime Minister would survive a vote of confidence in the House of Commons - but stressed that was not the true test of the strength of her leadership.

He said the "essential question" was whether there is going to be a change in party leadership before 2022, insisting it was the "consensus view" of the Conservative parliamentary Party that this will go ahead.

In addition to editing the Standard and working as an advisor for the investment firm Black Rock, Mr Osborne also chairs the Northern Powerhouse Partnership.

While in the Treasury, he was the driving force behind the government's devolution agenda, focussing on so-called city-regions like Manchester and Birmingham.

Pressed on whether he stands by this city model, or whether he believes a One Yorkshire deal would be viable, he would not be drawn to pick a preferred solution.

However, he suggested local leaders will find "a way forward".

"We achieved much more [in government] than we ever hoped to when we persuaded Birmingham to have a mayor and the Tees Valley, Manchester, Liverpool," he said.

"It was a matter of regret we couldn't persuade the rest of Yorkshire to have a mayor, but I always thought you couldn't really impose a solution, you had to allow the local political parties to come forward themselves... with a way forward.

"I take some encouragement [from] Tyneside where we also faced problems - people have now resolved their differences locally and they are going with devolution.

"I'm pretty optimistic that the same thing will happen in Yorkshire."

He went on to welcome signs of a resurgence in support for the Northern Powerhouse agenda.

Referencing claims that Number 10 had tried to "back-peddle or drop" the policy during the early days of the May administration he said: "I'm glad to say it has come back with force and I was very pleased to see it prominent in the Budget."