Welcome to the United Kingdom of England and Wales

by Kevin Meagher

Brexit may mean Brexit, but it also means something else: the United Kingdom, as we have known it, is finished.

The result of our vote to leave the European Union will precipitate a reshaping the United Kingdom from first principles, as our Celtic fringe is shorn off and overseas commitments become more burdensome.

Although a recent poll showed support for Scottish independence dipping a fraction below the 45 per cent level secured in the 2014 referendum, it will prove to be a false dawn for those hoping the fires of nationalism are dying down.

Brexit now makes a second referendum inevitable. More than that, it makes it entirely justifiable. A point Nicola Sturgeon was keen to exploit yesterday with her demands that Scotland be allowed to stay in the single market.

She has a point. Why should 62 per cent of Scots who voted to remain in the EU have their country’s prospects curtailed, as they see it, because of English votes; in a reversal of the famous West Lothian Question (why should Scots MPs vote on English laws?)

The SNP should be in tatters after losing the 2014 vote, but instead now dominates Scottish public life, utterly. So much so that Sturgeon announced back in October that she is teeing up a second referendum bill and amassing for a war chest for the next tilt at independence.

Brexit has given the cause of independence a new organising concept. A second lease of life. JP Morgan has already advised its clients that it thinks Scotland will be independent by 2019.

Make no mistake: At some point during these next few years of political turmoil, Scotland will leave the UK.

But the Brexit-inspired break-up doesn’t stop there.

Northern Ireland – our unloved lodger – could follow. Again, 56 per cent voted to stay in the EU. So what happens when the EU billions that helps to keep it afloat dries up when we leave?

Even unionists will find themselves pondering that the regeneration funding and agricultural support they currently enjoy would be automatically preserved in a united Ireland.

The issue should be a no-brainer by now anyway. Northern Ireland contributes just 2 per cent to UK GDP and studies have clearly shown the massive untapped value that can be generated from a single Irish state administering a single economic and investment policy on the island of Ireland. Both sides – North and South – would benefit.

And what happens when the first tranche of powerful English metro mayors start banging on the Treasury’s door demanding the Barnett Formula is ripped up and their cities get a fairer shake when it comes to public spending?

They too will have a point.

If we want to invest in the economically productive parts of the UK during these next few uncertain years, why fritter good money after bad on Northern Ireland?

The point to all this is that Brexit forces all the ambiguities of our unfinished constitutional business to the surface. Issues currently parked in the ‘too difficult’ tray will suddenly become pressing concerns.

All the quixotic arrangements we have made and awkward questions we have avoided are thrown into sharp relief. The net result will be that the British state will be utterly remade, but perhaps not in the way Brexiteers imagined.

Little Englanders will get literally that.

Scotland, gone. Northern Ireland, an unaffordable luxury. Gibraltar, isolated inside the EU. The Falklands, indefencible.

The Special Relationship with the US reduced to a hollow boast, as Britain becomes smaller and more marginal in international affairs and ends up paying more to keep its status as Nato’s Number Two (never mind that expensive UN Security Council seat).

Hardly the optimistic picture painted by romantic Leavers for post-Brexit Britain’s place in the world.

But this is the inexorable course we are set on. Where does it end?

With an English Prime Minister reduced to hosting a Commonwealth summit in Cardiff?

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Labour Uncut and author of ‘A United Ireland: Why unification is inevitable and how it will come about’, published by Biteback


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10 Responses to “Welcome to the United Kingdom of England and Wales”

  1. Warren Tarbiat says:

    Don’t think Scotland is necessarily a lost cause as that poll excludes DKs so it’s actually 38% support, 49% for staying in the UK with the rest DKs.

    But reagardless I think the UK could easily be more diminished as times go on as it ends up being a playing doll that is fought over by Mega-corporations and their sponsored Representatives and Senators in US Congress & Russia. Prepare the lube for the US-UK trade deal written by the Koch Industries under a GOP Presidency (GOP Voter surpression will probably keep GOP & Trump in power for next 8 years pessimistically).

  2. LordBlagger says:

    And Labour? Wiped out.

    Scotland? Screwed. 80% of its trade with England. Laden with a Barnet formula share of the debts, having to pay its public sector workers their pensions [more likely not], and 50% of the economy being the state, its screwed.

    What will happen is that the rich relocate, companies relocate. It’s tax raising ability drop as it increases tax rates to try and reap more and more cash from fewer and fewer. Even then its going to be forced to join the Euro, a disaster.

    This time unlike the last time the Scots asked the English to bail them out, the English are going to turn round and say no.

    Don’t forget that one aspect of Brexit is that you’re going to need work permits for economic migrant to come to the rUK. I doubt that many Scots will generate the income to be able to do that.

    Plus we dump RBS on them.

  3. bloke in suffolk says:

    i was under the impression that due to the Barnett formula North Ireland and Scotland where both net recipients to England detriment? wouldnt that give England and Wales the ability to (if they wanted) to spend more on defense for places such as the Falklands?

  4. paul barker says:

    The problem for The Scots is that they cant go straight from The UK to the EU, there would be years spent outwith both. Independence in those conditions means taking a collossal Economic risk.

  5. Happy Gilmore says:

    This was a very stimulating article, and to my mind well on the money. Brexit has completely ripped up the context upon which the last Scottish referendum played out, and makes the UK an incredibly risky sell to Scots in the next one. And the independence campaign will be starting from a solid base of 45% next time, instead of 30% last time. Almost all of the UK govt’s scare stories from 2014 have been used up or since exposed, and Scots certainly aren’t going to fall for the ‘more powers’ baloney twice.

    Alarming lack of knowledge shown about Scottish politics/economics in some of the comments (combined with a vengefulness in the case of LordBlagger), but hey, it’s Christmas, so I’m not going to argue with anyone. Have a gid yin, folks xx

  6. Rallan says:

    Lol! Even if this hysterical vision came to pass, though the author ignores the likely intense pro-UK vote in NI & Scotland, a “United Kingdom of England and Wales” would incorporate 90% of current UK population and would suffer little economic damage.

  7. Toz says:

    Lol, can’t believe people are still quoting figures from polling companies as if they mean anything ( Brexit / Trump / Milliband ). As someone who lives in Scotland I have no doubt independence is only a matter of time. In the last referendum the majority of Scottish people actually voted yes but the votes of ” forigners” turned in in favour of the Better Together camp. Polish and other foreign nationals were told that they would be kicked out of Scotland if it was a Yes vote as Scotland would have to leave the EU – Try that one now ( LMAO ). Also believe the majority of our English cousins living north of the border would now be likely to vote Yes ( they tend to be a bit more enlightened than the Ones South of the border). As for the Barnett Formula and England bailing out Scotland then keep reading the daily mail and Express but ask yourself this, If Scotland is such a drain on the rest of the U.K. Economy why were Tory and Labour politicians falling over themselves to get Scotland to remain? Is it their love of Haggis and Shortbread……. look for facts and don’t believe what you are told or you will end up a nation of knuckle draggers

  8. uglyfatbloke says:

    Barnett was devised to persuade Scots that they get a great deal out of the Union and thus stave of the nats. Subsequently it has been used to stir up resentment across the rest of the country. Parties and Media are both guilty of this….imagine any newspaper (or the TV companies) running pieces about how London is subsidised to the hilt by the rest of the country?
    Blagger….Scottish ‘trade with England’ is not even close to 80%, but exports to England combined with exports via English ports comes to about 64%….is that what you meant? In 1707 a very small number of Scottish individuals got backhanders of varying sizes, but there was no ‘bail-out’. If you really think that then you need to read some proper history…maybe start with Professor Bill Ferguson? It’s not exactly ‘page-turning’ stuff, but it’s manageable.
    RBS…liability for banks rests with where they do their business. RBS only does about 5% in Scotland so we’re not talking impossible sums.
    Public sector pensions would be paid (as the tories, Labour and the BofE have all told us) out of the post to which contributions have been paid to date; the same as in other countries that have dissolved into two states.
    In the event of independence (and I’m not so sure about that as either Kevin or JP Morgan) will Scotland be a ‘new’ country? If so it will start with no debt at all; that’s just how it works.
    If – as is more rational – independence means the dissolution of the Treaty of 1707 any debt will be commensurate with the division of assets other than land and buildings. It’s not clear to me what assets EW&NI would be willing to divide, nor that there are really any especially valuable assets that Scotland would desire – Holyrood can doubtless manage without Trident or the stack of worn-out nuclear boats at Rosyth, though if a Scottish government were smart (which I very much doubt) they would be willing to store them at a truly exorbitant rate. The current trident boats might (but probably not really) be acceptable at an English or Welsh port, but there’s no realistic prospect of anywhere taking the worn-out ones.
    Toz may well be right about a general trend toward independence; even here in the back of beyond and in traditional glib-dumb territory the ‘leave’ vote has turned a lot of people toward independence and the nats….there again this is an area where coming in ahead of the ‘Bald Christians for Custard Creams Party (Official)’ is a success for Labour, so it’s not what you’d call a representative sample.
    Rallan….you’re quire right; an independent England/Wales would have 90% of the population and would suffer little direct economic consequence, but I think you’ll find that while ‘No’ is still ahead of ‘Yes’ in the polls, the ‘intensity’ (good choice of word BTW)of the ‘pro-UK vote has been severely bruised by the EU result.
    Even so, the big threat to the Union of 1707 is Theresa May. Oddly enough she is also the biggest threat to the apparent recovery of the Scottish tories. Now, in reality it”s not so much that the tories have done well, but that Labour has done badly, however whilst her ‘no different arrangements for Scotland’ is playing well with anti-EU tories in Scotland it’s not going down at all well with the marginally more numerous pro-EU tories. Their MSPs are well under the thumb of May/Davidson, but there’s a good deal of discomfort among the wider party and the prospect of ructions is a very real one with a growing division between those tories who are genuine Unionists and those who are essentially quislings….Jackson Carlaw springs to mind; for those who don’t know he’s the tory equivalent of Willie Bain or Jackie Baillie or Willie Rennie.
    As a voter I’m not persuaded that any Scottish party is paying any attention at all to the electors…as a historian it’s all very interesting in an academic way, but the sheer wilful mindlessness of the whole political class is, to say the least, distressing.

  9. uglyfatbloke says:

    Paul…not impossible (though in my view pretty unlikely )that Scotland could go straight from UK to EU. Whatever French and Spanish PMs say just now (and there’s quite a difference between that they actually say and how it is reported in the Daily Mail) they (and the Poles, Belgians and Dutch) are concerned that the removal of UK MEPs will shift the balance of power away from what we might call the northern bloc and they don’t want that at any price, so a bundle of Scottish MEPs and minister with northern priorities has certain attractions….and of course for the French and the Germans it would be an opportunity to poke the remaining UK in the eye at no cost to themselves.

  10. John Naught says:

    “Why should 62 per cent of Scots who voted to remain in the EU have their country’s prospects curtailed, as they see it, because of English votes….”

    Because Scotland voted to stay in the United Kingdom. It was the pooled votes of the United Kingdom that voted Brexit. So we, the United Kingdom voted to get out of Europe.

    Stop saying Scotland voted remain, London voted remain. It is a United Kingdom. The people of the United kIngdom voted Leave.

    I’m a Remainer.

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