Friday, February 17, 2017

Could Britain break -up?

Nothing in this world lasts forever.

We tend to think of nation states as though they were immortal because many of them last much longer than the average human lifetimes but there is no reason to imagine that any of the states which exist today are more immortal than the Empires of Alexander, the Mughals, the Aztecs or Incas, the Roman Empire, the Confederate States of America, or the Soviet Union.

A very current and welcome example is that in 2017 there is an excellent chance that DA'ESH will lose their remaining territory and with it their claim to be an Islamic caliphate and a significant proportion of their ability to wreak torture, slavery and murder on innocent human beings, though sadly the threat from Jihadi terrorism will not go away any time soon.

I hope that there will still be a United Kingdom of Great Britain for my grandchildren and my many-times great grandchildren to live in, but I do not deceive myself that such an outcome is inevitable. It would be a very rash British patriot who fails to recognise that, whichever way the EU referendum had gone, the existence of a very large minority within one of the four countries of the United Kingdom who are opposed to the Union would always have been and remains an existential threat to the UK. A threat which democrats can only oppose by persuasion, something which in the present political climate here and around the world is not something to which everyone is open.

The present edition of the Economist has an article "Britain is sliding towards Scoxit" about the possibility that the SNP might succeed at the second attempt to gain independence from the UK.

The subtitle of the article puts another slant on things: it reads

"The decision to leave the EU appears to strengthen the case for Scottish independence. In fact, it weakens it."

The fifteen opinion polls on Scottish Independence since the Brexit vote have all, with the exception of the three polls held a very short time after the 23rd June referendum result, suggested that Scotland would vote not to leave the UK if there were another referendum. But there was a bit of a "wobble" in a February poll following suggestions that Brexit may mean a "hard break."

The argument of those Independence supporters who think that Britain leaving the EU means that Scotland is more likely to vote to leave the EU is based on three principles, one of which is true and the other two are both dubious and apparently contradictory.

They argue

1) The vote to leave is a change in the situation of Scotland within the UK to that which prevailed at the time of the original independence referendum. That is true.

2) That most of those who wanted to leave both the UK and the EU will still vote to leave the UK if the SNP is proposing to leave the UK and rejoin the EU on the basis that leaving the UK is more important to them than being outside the EU.

3) That some of those who previously wanted to stay in both the UK and the EU will switch over to the pro-independence side because staying in the EU is more important to them than staying in the UK.

(Obviously, we can agree that those who voted "Yes" and "Remain" will be overwhelmingly likely to still vote "Yes" and those who voted "No" and "Leave" will be equally likely to still vote "No")

Given that every argument I have heard the SNP produce about the failings of Westminster and Whitehall applies with even greater force to Brussels, I'm not at all convinced that all the Scots who want to "take back control" from both alike will be at all happy about escaping the authority of London only to cede independence to Brussels.

Those of my friends in Scotland who voted both "No" and "Remain" are convinced to a man and woman that voting for Independence now would be following one act of calamitous self-harm with a worse one - as some describe it, like stubbing your toe and responding by amputating your foot.

And it is easy to find objective, evidence-based reasons why they are exactly right.

For a start, Scotland exports four times as much to the rest of the UK than it does to the whole of the rest of the EU put together - so even if the eventual terms of Brexit impact on Scottish access to the EU single market, erecting equivalent barriers to the UK market would do four times as much harm to the Scottish economy.

Satisfying hardline nationalists is next to impossible, but it is very important to make every effort to ensure Brexit works for all parts of the UK and to listen to the concerns of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as  well as England.
Those of my friends in Scotland who voted both "No" and "Remain"


Jim said...

the ones i find hardest to understand are those in the main bulk of the SNP camp, i.e those who want yes to an independent Scotland, and then for Scotland to remain in the EU.

I just don't see the point in working so hard to become an independent state, and then making your action to hand over that very independence to the European Union. It just makes no sense to me.

Anonymous said...

Like you Brexiteers who want to stay in NATO.

Chris Whiteside said...

I voted Remain.

But NATO does not attempt to lay down detailed and sometimes intrusive rules for the internal running of its member nations, unlike the EU,

Hence I can see a lot less difficulty in being anti the EU but pro-NATO than there is in being anti rule from London but in favour of rule from Brussels - every single criticism you can make of Westminster and Whitehall applies with greater force to Brussels.

Anonymous said...

So you'll send your son to fight for an Article 5 NATO cause?