England to Leave the UK
Well, now it’s happened. It starts off as a thought experiment. What if Scotland, with Northern Ireland and Gibraltar, and the Channel Islands, and all the other territorially distinct bits of the UK that voted to Remain in the EU REMAIN in the EU by the simple expedient of remaining in the UK, while England and Wales leave? What if England and Wales leave the UK on the same day they leave the EU, and the rest of us stay exactly where we are: in both?
Now, this is amusing enough, if only to imagine the columns that Simon Heffer and Alan Cochrane (inter alia) would write about it, straining every apoplectic muscle in their thundering “How dare you!”
But actually, no, think about it. Game it out, as they say. From the point of view of the EU, with whom a “successor relationship” with the UK will have to emerge, what would be actually wrong with forming a relationship with a successor state? With, as people have been pointing out, nothing more required than a couple of bottles of Tippex to alter all those treaties?
In the first place, such a new arrangement would respect the results of both referenda, in 2014 and 2016. Scotland voted to Remain in both the UK and the EU. If “we” become the successor state (in some arrangement or other) then both objectives are achieved. And England and Wales face the historical consequence that for Britain, EU membership was the successor to Empire as to how “we” kept our “place in the world.” To abandon the EU when you haven’t got an Empire any more is an act of deluded, senile self harm to which there is no reason why anyone who didn’t vote for it would want to be party.
Second, there were many people on the side of Yes in 2014 who campaigned not on the basis of Scottish Exceptionalism, but because we valued the inclusiveness of the idea of Britain as it existed, however tenuously, from 1945 until (pick an historical moment) the defeat of the miners – the enemy within – in 1985. Devolution in Scotland derives its entire purpose from self defense against the Tories and their vision of Britain as some kind of off-shore hellhole of cheap labour and gated privilege. Self defense flirted with self-determination from 2007 onward, I suppose, culminating in the 2014 vote…
But once again, recent developments go to show that Breaking Up Britain was always too big a job for the Scots. It was always a job for the English.
Well, now it’s happened. The Brexit vote has done it. We are not leaving the UK, we are being left. Why not make it official? And respect the democratic mandate of the people of England and Wales to leave the EU, as well as the vote in Scotland to remain in both.
“Well, now it’s happened. The Brexit vote has done it. We are not leaving the UK, we are being left. Why not make it official? And respect the democratic mandate of the people of England and Wales to leave the EU, as well as the vote in Scotland to remain in both.”
If the UK really is a partnership of equals, I can see no logical objection. If the UK is just “Greater England”…well, that’s something else again. Rather in the same way as Yugoslavia, despite Milosevic, turned out to be something other than Greater Serbia.
As for the objection that Scotland would be swapping a free trade relationship with the rUK for a free trade relationship with the EU, the rUK has been at pains recently to insist that it wants Free Trade as far as possible with the EU, and we’d be in the EU, so that would include us and our smoked salmon, wind power and single malts.
And all those companies in London – like banks and pension funds – for whom the EU relationship is vital, who have got already, a lot of them, branch offices in Edinburgh and Dublin, all they’re got to do is move their head offices (and their tax obligations) a wee bit to the North and West, and they’ll still get to speak English.
So that would take care of the “London” problem, a small shift in the admin and most of the jobs can stay in that great and exciting city, which will remain, as it must, an economic hub. Well, it’s either that or move the whole lot to Frankfurt and Paris.
Wales? That’s a bit sad. But democracy is democracy, and we are all about respecting the vote.
Now all this pipe dreaming really comes about because no less established and establishment) a boffin as Strathclyde Uni’s own, inimitable John Curtice, allowed himself to do some thinking aloud on this topic in the Sunday Herald. And I’ve been posting a bit about it on social media. (In fact, I got a tweet this morning from a chap called Gordon Innes pointing out that the “Scots/Irish successor state to the UK” in the EU could also take Britain’s seat on the UN security council. So we could! We’ve got the Nukes!)
But seriously for a moment, if maintaining Scotland’s place in the EU is the aim of our negotiators in the Brexit process, and minimum disruption is the aim of the EU negotiators…then mightn’t this idea have some legs? Might it even be slightly LESS crazy than London, Scotland, Northern Ireland and all the overseas and island territories being dragged out of Europe against their interests as well as their expressed democratic decision?
Maybe there’s more to this idea than mischief. We might not even need the Tippex.