Sunday, June 26, 2016

Brexit legacy is a disunited kingdom

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is absolutely right in her intention to put the case for her country’s independence to a second referendum following the overall United Kingdom vote to leave the European Union.

The suggestion that Westminster would refuse to allow it because the 2014 independence vote was a ‘once in a lifetime’ event has been negated by the ‘once in a lifetime’ decision to leave the EU.

Circumstances have radically altered, especially as Prime Minister David Cameron stated in 2014 that Scotland’s best hope of continuing to enjoy EU benefits was to remain in the United Kingdom.

Scotland’s 62 per cent to 38 per cent vote for Remain is a clear expression of the Scottish will to be part of the European family. Not to allow a further question on Scottish independence so that it could take steps to attain that goal would be reprehensible to say the least.

Over the years I have spoken with many Scots who expressed irritation that their constant left-of-centre voting preferences were overwhelmed by those of much larger England. This latest slap in the face may be one too many.  

I note that Northern Ireland is also coming into the equation with possible overtures from Dublin to raise the question, once again, of a united Ireland. The north did indeed vote for Remain, although not quite as emphatically as the Scots, but I doubt that the Loyalist elements there are ready for such a radical departure.

The aftermath of the Brexit vote has also raised the question of the referendum itself. Britain is unused to this device, which it has only begun employing on a very much ad hoc basis in recent times.  

Countries that use referendums regularly as part of their governance structure often build in safeguards requiring a two thirds or three fifths majority in favour of change, or the status quo is maintained. That way if change is achieved it is with something approaching a consensus, avoiding what US Founding Father John Adams described as the tyranny of the majority.

This was not used with the British vote which saw Leave scrape through by just under four per cent. This has left a huge disenchanted minority, who are already making their feelings clear.

It has turned sections of the country against each other – London was solid in its support for Remain, the Midlands and large parts of the north for Leave. It has pitted Millennials who were strong for Remain against Baby Boomers who equally flocked to the Leave standard. Rich against poor, employers against employees.

It is, of course, too late to change the rules, the result stands, but the repercussions have only just begun.

England has made its bed, now it must lie in it.  

1 comment:

  1. For sure, the opinion polls backed up your statement that the Millennials were 'strong for Remain'. However, since only 35 per cent of them bothered to vote, the facts do not necessarily follow the opinion polls, which, not for the first time, were way off the mark.