The Union Gangplank

Laws can be changed, but constitutions are meant to be sticky. The once ‘flexible’ UK constitution has melted. Gordon Guthrie investigates.

The backstop isn’t the problem.

Careless, overconfident and sure of its own perfection Westminster handed out sovereignty like sweeties: to Northern Ireland (’73, ’75, ’95), Wales (’79, ’97’, ’11) and Scotland (’79, ’97, ’14).

The problem is a sovereign British vote for Brexit and a sovereign all-Irish vote for an open border.

There is a way out – a snap election, a betrayal and an internal border in the North Sea.

The sovereign north will not vote for a United Ireland, but the sovereign north would vote for a soft-secession and the warm embrace of the EU if it got the chance.

A union needs unionists at both ends, as the ethnic Unionists found out long ago.

Westminster (Conservative and) Unionists done down Stormont and the Irish wolf was let into Mayfield by Maggie Thatcher.

And from the frying pan of soft-secession, more fires.

Laws can be changed, but constitutions are meant to be sticky. The once ‘flexible’ UK constitution has melted: control of the parliamentary timetable, Henry VIII decrees, EVEL, FTPA, governments commanding confidence, prorogation, a purdah Brexit, Queen in, Queen out.

Dominic Cumming’s whimsies are just word soup. It cannot go on. To make it stick you need a constitutional convention, or if you’re feeling bold: De Pfeffel Gaulle constitutes! the people vote! But a UK reconstitution would change Scottish and Welsh devolution. And free Nicola Sturgeon.

The British had a wheeze in ‘73 – cement the Union with a snap Northern Ireland Border Poll. They ‘lost’ 98.9% to 1.1% – the nationalist boycott made it a death rattle. The war continued.

A thumping majority over an absent opposition is the only indyref2 currently available to Nicola Sturgeon – a defeat that the Gnats don’t want.

The UK can’t wait, but a UK constitutional proposal that doesn’t come with 4 national vetoes won’t fly. The SNP could, should and would refuse consent.

How could a new Scotland be imposed? By whom, short of the army?

Wasps gonnae sting, Gnats gonnae gnat.

How would English politics respond to another deadlock?

The autumn start of Brexit desperately, mistakenly wished for as the end doesn’t bode well. Constitution-making calls for sober minds and boring attention to detail, both much missed among the fever dream corps de ballet that passes for our governing masters.

In the ‘92 Czechoslovak elections Pro-Federation parties thumped anti-Federation ones 97% to 3%. No boycotts, no defeat in victory. But the Federation didn’t survive the reconstitution it was going through. The Czechs, bored and irritated, simply pulled out.

A union with unionists at one end is a gangplank. The Scottish unionists inch along it, the ginger shuffle of dead men walking.

Comments (7)

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  1. Alasdair Macdonald says:

    I’m afraid this piece is too elliptical for me. It seems that there might be things with which I agree or are potentially interesting, but, I am unable to glean what is really being said. Apologies!

    1. Welsh Sion says:

      I’m afraid I’m in the same boat, Alasdair. (Lifeboat away from the fast sinking HMS Disunited Kingdumb, of choice).

      But … Ah dinnae ken whit yon fella is tryin’ tae sae!

      My apologies, too!

  2. Richard Easson says:

    I don’t remember if it was said by Bertrand Russell or Spike Milligan but to paraphrase: “Once you realise it is a load of rubbish it all makes more sense.”

    1. Kenmath says:

      That’s the perfect epitaph for Brexit!

  3. Alistair Thomas says:

    It’s not difficult. If a genuine federal solution was offered to the three subservient parts of the union, they would likely take it. However England, like the Czech republic wouldn’t, and the union will dissolve. The reality is that England won’t accept a federal UK.

    1. Alasdair Macdonald says:

      If that is what the writer was trying to say, then why did he not express it as you have done, in two lines rather than such a long piece of incomprehensibilty?

      1. Wullie says:

        Prolixity and then some!

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