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