BrEXIT AND BreUK-UP

Looking back on the result of the Brexit vote, future historians may well conclude that the post-WW II United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland was, like Belgium, held together by the European Union.

Flanders and Wallonia dare not split into independent countries (despite decades of mutual antipathy and non-co-operation) because neither wishes to lose Brussels as its capital. But London does not hold the UK together. The Brexit vote revealed the vast gulf in social attitudes and political aspirations between London and the rest of England. The encircling M25 haloes and isolates London, just as the medieval palisade separated pre-Tudor Dublin from “Irish” Ireland. L’Angleterre profonde now lies beyond the Pale, and London as an international city state in waiting is profoundly out of sympathy and out of step with it.

How to be Unionist

Meanwhile, north of Hadrian’s Wall, a different politics flourishes in which London, and the rest of England, appear increasingly irrelevant. The SNP now run a minority administration from Edinburgh, largely as a result of the remarkable resurrection of the Tory vote under the leadership of Ruth Davidson MSP and the continued collapse of the Labour vote under the leadership of Kezia Dugdale MSP. But the Scottish Tories keep their distance from their sister party to the south and contemplate, as part of their on-going de-toxification, dropping the label “Conservative” and returning to their pre-1965 designation as the Scottish Unionists. And Scottish Labour sinks into yet deeper irrelevance, while flirting with talk of a post-Brexit complete federalisation of the UK ...

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