British Conservatives are openly discussing whether Brexit will lead to the breakup of the country currently known as the United Kingdom.
Some of them are becoming comfortable with the end of their nation and their personal role in its destruction.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet recently discussed a document outlining the “real risk” of the end of the United Kingdom— in the form of independence and secession movements in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, according to the Financial Times.
The break-up is being driven by the UK’s ongoing failure to leave — or remain — in the European Union. A slim majority of Brits voted in favour of leaving the EU, in 2016. But within those numbers were a large majority of Scots and Northern Irish who voted to Remain. They now find themselves being dragged out of Europe against their will. The Scots are particularly aggrieved because in 2014 they voted in a different referendum to stay united with Britain, which was a member of the EU at the time.
Brexit changed the terms of that union for the worse, many Scots now say.
Brexit also creates an intractable challenge to Northern Ireland’s borderless edge with the rest of Ireland. When Britain leaves the EU, a non-EU customs border must be imposed there, either redividing Ireland or segregating Northern Ireland from the rest of Britain. That could restart hostilities between Republican and Loyalist terrorists who, since, 1998, have agreed to a ceasefire on the premise that Ireland and Northern Ireland are united (with a small “u”) as a geographic entity, while Northern Ireland remains part of the UK as a legal and political entity. That compromise offered symbolic victories — and real peace — for all.
But Brexit takes a knife to it.
‘We cannot be complacent about Wales’s attitude to the Union and independence’
The cabinet document says Wales is at risk, too, according to the FT:
“In a cabinet document, sections of which have been seen by the FT, [David Lidington, the prime minister’s deputy] said a recent increase in support for Plaid Cymru [the Welsh nationalist party] confirmed ‘we cannot be complacent about Wales’s attitude to the Union and independence’. And in a stark warning about the impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland, Mr Lidington pointed to demands for a ‘border poll’ that could see the island of Ireland reunited, with moderates attracted by social liberalisation in the Republic. ‘There is a real and genuine conversation going on on the island of Ireland about a future border poll,’ he said. ‘A no-deal exit, in which Direct Rule must necessarily be introduced, would sharpen this further.'”
Trade minister Liam Fox was asked by the BBC recently if Brexit might lead to Scottish independence or a referendum on the Irish border. He replied:
“Well it could. We know they are both real threats. There is no point in pretending they are not there.”
They might need to destroy Britain in order to secure its independence
On the right, anti-EU Leavers are becoming comfortable with the idea that they might need to destroy Britain in order to secure its “independence.” Brexit Party leader — and Donald Trump confidante — Nigel Farage was recently asked whether the loss of Scotland was a price worth paying. He said that it would be “deeply regrettable” but Brexit was the priority:
“Being an independent self-governing nation is the number one. If there were parts of the United Kingdom that didn’t wish to stay part of it that would be deeply regrettable but I just don’t believe that to be the case – I really genuinely don’t believe it.”
Farage’s fellow traveller, the conservative broadcaster Julia Hartley-Brewer, appears to have already accepted that fate. She has tweeted:
“The people of Scotland have the right to leave the UK if they so wish. We shouldn’t prevent Brexit because of that.”
“ I’m more than happy for Scotland to be independent if that’s what the people want.”
“Any Tory leadership candidate who puts the Union first has absolutely no intention of delivering Brexit.”
Theresa May warns against Nigel Farage, who ‘speaks casually of the potential break-up of our Union’
Prime Minister Theresa May is so worried about it she went to Scotland to make a speech about it:
“The question of how we can secure our Union for the future is being asked with ever more urgency,” she said. Farage, “the leader of the party that topped the poll in those elections in England speaks casually of the potential break-up of our Union.”
“All of this against the backdrop of Brexit – a profound constitutional change that is putting political and administrative strains on the Union,” she said.
This was previously unthinkable. Britain is the world’s fifth largest economy, the progenitor of democracy and the industrial revolution. And yet because of this one issue — Brexit — conservatives are seriously contemplating ending it all.
This is not normal. Democracies are supposed to be stable. Trump doesn’t openly worry about the secession of the Southern States. Macron doesn’t fret over seeing Alsace-Lorraine return to the Germans. Merkel isn’t lying awake at night wondering whether East Berlin might be handed back to Moscow.
Only in Britain are our elected officials openly discussing the destruction of the nation. The desire to reclaim Britain’s sovereignty from Europe, via Brexit, is so distorting that conservatives are willing to sacrifice their country to get there.
Boris Johnson’s anti-Scottish prejudice
Boris Johnson, the almost-certain next prime minister, isn’t helping. He has a history of prejudice against the Scots. When he worked as a journalist at the Spectator magazine, he once suggested that Scottish people be banned from becoming prime ministers of Britain.
He also published a poem (written by someone else) joking about the “extermination” of the “verminous” Scottish race. Johnson is so disliked in Scotland that a majority of Scots would vote for independence if he were prime minister, according to a Panelbase/Sunday Times survey. That majority only appears when Johnson is in No.10.
This is startling stuff.
The Conservatives are supposed to be the patriotic party. The full name of the organisation is “The Conservative and Unionist Party,” the “union” being a reference to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
“ One Nation” used to be a Tory rallying cry.
Why would the right give up on the country it claims to hold so dear?
A cynic might point out that while the UK’s population is 67 million people, England comprises 55 million of them. With Scotland and Northern Ireland gone, and maybe Wales to follow, the English Conservatives would be left with a permanent, unassailable majority in England’s House of Commons.
Sure, the country would be humiliated on the national stage, and decimated politically, geographically, and economically.
But the consolation for Britain’s Conservatives would be unopposed power — without compromise with Brussels or the regions — for generations.
That is the direction we’re heading.