Andy Burnham says Brexit Britain will be even more divided unless Yorkshire gets devolved powers and money

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Brexit Britain could become even more divided unless areas like Yorkshire get the powers and money to control their own destiny, the North's most senior metro mayor has said.

Andy Burnham said he decided to travel Westminster to deliver a major speech today during a summer when the North's railways were in chaos and its moors on fire, saying it felt like the county was "drifting dangerously" amid Brexit.

The Greater Manchester Mayor insisted transferring more powers to Britain's regions was "the right policy at the right time" and "the best hope of making Brexit work for the regions and uniting our uncertain nation".

Focusing on the immediate future, he said street-level social unrest whipped up by the "alt-right" during a second Brexit referendum would be a price worth paying if another vote is required to stop Britain leaving the EU with no deal.

In the long-term, the Labour politician insisted there is now a "compelling and unanswerable case" for devolution, warning the Government would face "resentment and irrelevance" unless unless answers the call expressed in the Brexit referendum for more local control over decision-making.

It is also in the Government's self-interest as it will help Westminster "cope with the herculean task of Brexit and not end up being sunk by it".

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham says he decided to give this speech in London during the summer, when the Norths railways were in chaos and the moors ablaze, saying it felt like the country was drifting dangerously

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham says he decided to give this speech in London during the summer, when the Norths railways were in chaos and the moors ablaze, saying it felt like the country was drifting dangerously

"The North of England cannot afford a rerun of what happened this summer when our trains stopped running and we struggled to get hold of people in Whitehall," he said.

"People's lives have been turned upside down by the chaos but when mayors and leaders from across the North have taken to the airwaves to call for help it is as if we've been shouting into the abyss."

Failing to empower more of Britain's regions would only create more splits, he said.

"(Devolution) must not stop where it is now as that risks another new divide between the areas that have devolution and those without," he said.

"We in Greater Manchester want all parts of England to have what we have got.

"The more they extend the same powers that Greater Manchester has to other places, for instance our neighbours in Cheshire and Yorkshire, the more we will all be able to do for ourselves, working together, opening up a new positive chapter for our country, rebalancing it from South to North.

"So I come today with a constructive offer to Government and the Westminster world - devolution in England was your idea, it is working, it is the best answer we have to the challenge of Brexit and the best hope of building a new, optimistic, more inclusive politics throughout England. "

More immediately, Mr Burnham said emergency measures should be put in place if MPs vote down any agreement Theresa May achieves after negotiations with the EU - an increasing possibility with several Tory Remainers and Brexiteers opposed to her Chequers plan.

If the EU turns down any attempt to extend the Article 50 exit process to give more time for talks, the Mayor would back a second referendum on the final terms of withdrawal, even though it would risk deepening divisions and further erode trust in politicians.

"A second vote would cause real division on our streets, but there is only one thing worse than that and it is crashing out of the European Union with no deal," he said.

"I see these voices almost calling for a no deal Brexit and I wonder what lies behind that, I just wonder whether or not it is an alt-right campaign to create this conflict, it seems they feed off conflict, that they want that division on our streets so they can recruit more people to their cause.

"It's a destructive approach to politics and it is starting to infect the British political system and I think making those calls need to be challenged on what that would do to social cohesion.

"I think a second vote would hand an opportunity to the populist far-right, I don't want them to have any more opportunity to cause any more division on our streets and that's why I've taken the position that I have."

Mr Burnham also rebuffed the Prime Minister's and Chris Grayling's suggestion that suggestion that Northern leaders have all the powers they have asked for over the rail network, insisting Transport for the North has already requested full control and was "ready" to accept responsibility and accountability for running trains.

He said: "When the leaders of the North were first asking more control that was what they asked for - full oversight of the franchise, but we didn't get that, we got this partnership.

"We all feel now that the summer has shown that that just doesn't work, a partnership only works if both sides are as engaged as each other, because we live there we are obviously perhaps more engaged than people who don't live there."