A Disunited Kingdom

What is the United Kingdom?  What is it for?

We know historically how it came about, but what now binds these nations together apart from its legal relationship?  The answer to that is more interesting than it seems.

Those who work together, including nation-states,  usually do so because they have common objectives and a cultural alliance.  To be British in large part was once defined by its empire.  British colonialism was English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish.  It gave the 'British people' a commonality.  We were not simply four nations occupying the British Isles.

The Monarchy was moulded in the image of this empire.  The monarchy was carefully crafted despite its German heritage.

But the Empire has long gone, and the United Kingdom looked to Europe with its membership of the European Union.  Now, most likely,  that visions will also be gone.

The more fragile our relationship with the world, the more fragile is the unity of the Kingdom.  The common purpose of the UK is as much embedded in common international endeavours as it is internal.  This is why Britain leaving the EU reveals major fault lines in the union.

In 1962, America's then-Secretary of State,  Dean Acheson,  caused a storm by remarking that

"Great Britain had lost an Empire but not yet found a role"

Since the second world war, the United Kingdom has punched above its weight in world affairs.

Now, Great Britain, by turning its back on its role in the European Union, risks once again being afloat at sea without a rudder.   By losing influence in Europe, it will lose its appeal internationally.  It will no longer be able to position itself as a crucial bridge between Europe and the USA, and Britain's place at the top table will increasingly come under scrutiny.

The dependency on the UK's external relationships with the EU is highlighted by the problem of the Northern Ireland border.  Northern Ireland will now have to consider whether it is better in the longer term to sever its ties with the rest of the United Kingdom and strengthen its bonds with the Republic of Ireland.

Scotland will also seek ways to reestablish ties with the European Union.  The SNP will argue that it is better to be in the EU than in a disunited Kingdom that has broken away from the EU.  It is a powerful argument.  Scotland sees its role in Europe in ways that England does not.  It was an argument that wasn't available to them in the referendum in 2014.

So powerful will be that argument that it is likely the other major parties in Scotland might also sign up to it.  It England from Westminster pulls the UK in directions that the Scots d not wish to go, then what holds them to the United Kingdom?

All the arguments used by the Leave campaign for 'taking back control' will be used in the bid for Scotland independence.

If Boris Johnson wins the general election and proceeds to take Britain out of the EU on terms regardless of the views of the people's of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, then he will be using English votes to do so.  He will in law be doing so as a United Kingdom government, but the impact that will have on our Kingdom will be catastrophic.

Perhaps, it doesn't matter.  Perhaps the time has come for Scotland to sever its ties and for Ireland to be united.   Who knows, it might heal a festering sore.  But people should be aware of the consequences.

If Boris Johnson wins the general election with a majority, then the UK is heading for uncharted waters.  The trade deals Britain requires will be long in the making, else they will be rushed and unlikely to maintain standards.

It is easy enough to get enthusiastic about it, but the sober reality is that the UK has benefited enormously from membership of the EU, both economically and politically.   The single market was as much driven by the Thatcher government as it was 'imposed' by wicked Brussel's bureaucrats.  She told business leaders in 1988 :

"Just think for a moment what a prospect that is. A single market without barriers—visible or invisible—giving you direct and unhindered access to the purchasing power of over 300 million of the world's wealthiest and most prosperous people.
Bigger than Japan. Bigger than the United States. On your doorstep. And with the Channel Tunnel to give you direct access to it."

This is what Boris will be walking us away from.

But it is more than economics.   It is also pivotal to the integrity of the United Kingdom.  To ignore the wishes of the nations that make up the UK is a recipe for a constitutional crisis.

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