If you’re looking for a quick equivalent to the word “irony” these days, all you need do is type two letters: UK. While David Cameron may have pleaded with Scotland to Remain With Us and Theresa May made reference frequently to the Precious Union, and while Boris Johnson has declared he’s four-square behind the solidity of the UK, a moment’ s thought will tell you that this flies in the face of the facts. In my lifetime the UK has never been more creaking and straining to pull itself apart.
Let’s start with Scotland. In 2014, David Cameron begged Scotland to remain within the UK, saying that it would be so much better off since it’d be part of a UK that was an EU member. Next you know, Cameron has had a rush of blood to the head and bingo! The UK is on its way out of the EU.
I remember 2014, when Scotland had its first independence referendum. I was in Glasgow three weeks before the vote and the place was electric: people were absorbed by the whole notion of listening to Cameron or listening to the call of independence. In the end, the independence side were defeated. The Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced that there’s going to be another independence referendum next year – and this time it will have factored in the obvious disadvantages that will attend being outside of the EU. The fact is, two-thirds of Scotland voted to stay in the EU. Factor that into Cameron’s false promises and you’ve got a country that looks like getting shot of the UK as soon as possible.
Here in our NE stateen the strain has always been severe and most of us know it’s only a question of time – five years or less – before a majority declare they would like to leave the UK in accordance with the Good Friday Agreement’s provision for that very thing.
At this point, of course, you’ll have voices like that of commentators like Stephen Collins (NO relative) telling us that such talk is “guff” and “dangerous guff” at that, because (i) It’ll upset the unionists; and (ii) Nobody in the south will want us. If you talk to people who have approached this matter more methodically and with research into the matter, like Fianna Fail’s Senator Mark Daily, you’ll find that when public opinion in the south on unity is polled, it regularly comes out between 60% and 80%. As for the unionists being upset, are we saying that the Good Friday Agreement was just a bunch of guff, with the notion of a border poll a little joke inserted into the heart of the Agreement?
Yes, it’s true to say that the forces working to break our NE stateen away from the UK are more powerful today than at any time in living memory.
Which leaves Wales, which has traditionally been the obedient little partner to England, falling into line and weak with delight at the heir to the throne being the Prince of Wales. The party currently in government in the Welsh Assembly is Labour; the signs for Labour in Wales for the coming election are not very encouraging, while the signs for the nationalist Plaid Cymru are generally positive.
So the signs from the lesser parts of the UK are gloomy. But in fact, none of those regions – Scotland, Wales or our NE stateeen – will usher in the end of the UK. The country that will do that will be England. Because Brexit is English nationalism with a dose of the seriously delusional head-staggers. Never were Yeats’s lines more a propos: “The centre cannot hold”. But while Yeats follows up with “Mere anarchy is launched upon the world”, in this case it will be independence and maturity that will be ushered in. Sometimes the bossman is in as much need of liberation as those he’s been keeping under his thumb.