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The way to a Clean Brexit? Independence from Scotland


THE UK is stuck in a constitutional quagmire because the Union between England, Wales, and Scotland on the one hand and the UK and EU on the other no longer works, but there seems to be no viable way out. Scotland wishes to be an independent country inside the EU, but Scottish independence from the UK does not get Scotland there. So Scotland is still in the UK. England and Wales – the old Roman province of Britannia – wish to be an independent country outside the EU, but they will find it almost impossible to depart from the EU if they must drag a reluctant Scotland along with them. Consequently, England, Wales, and Scotland appear doomed to live in the hell of Sartre’s No Exit.

There is a solution: England and Wales – rather than Scotland – must leave the UK. If Britannia leaves the UK, then Britannia is an independent country out of the EU. Brexit accomplished (for the nations in the UK that want Brexit). If Britannia leaves the UK, then Scotland is the UK and the UK remains an independent country in the EU. Scottish independence accomplished (Northern Ireland will have to decide which way to go). There is no alternative proposal to resolve the UK’s constitutional conundrum that keeps Scotland in the EU while simultaneously getting England and Wales out. Britannian Independence is the only path to a Clean Brexit. This radical idea is looking much more possible now that Nigel Farage is happy to enter into an alliance with Boris Johnson to get a Clean Brexit, and members of the Tory party are happy to see the Union between England and Scotland end if that is what it takes to get Brexit to happen.

Consider this proposition from Scotland’s perspective. A recent What Scotland Thinks poll found that 57 per cent of Scots describe themselves as either entirely or mostly Scottish while only 14 per cent describe themselves as either entirely or mostly British. Unsurprisingly, a strong majority of Scots prefer independence in principle. In practice, however, voting in the Scottish Independence Referendum of 2014 shows that a majority of Scots are unwilling to vote for independence in light of the economic turmoil that would inevitably follow from leaving both the UK and the EU. 

And Scottish independence from the UK would mean leaving the EU – on this point the EU could not be clearer. An independent Scotland could of course apply to join the EU just like any other country, and just like any other country an independent Scotland could expect to spend a decade or so mired in accession talks before getting in. It is going to be extremely difficult to convince Scottish voters to support independence under these circumstances.

EU membership is therefore the key to Scottish independence. So, it is both just and sensible to bequeath the EU membership that Britannia does not want to Scotland. Britannian Independence is the only way to get this disposition of assets written into the UK’s will.

Now consider Britannian Independence from the perspective of England and Wales. England and Wales support Brexit. The Brexit Party triumphed in Britannia – but not in Scotland – in the EU elections. So, Brexiteers must act to ensure that Brexit actually happens and to put England and Wales on a path that will make Brexit a success.

For Brexit to be a success, Brexit must be a revolution. MP Priti Patel sees it, writing that the UK is now experiencing a ‘struggle between those who support a statist, more interventionist and controlling approach, the soulless managerial decline we are currently seeing, versus the dynamic, innovative and entrepreneurial policies . . . which unleash our country’s potential’. Treasury Minister Liz Truss sees it, proclaiming that ‘just doing more of what we have been doing for the past nine years is not going to win over modern Britain. We need to be bold’. Nigel Farage sees it: the point of his Brexit Party is to ‘Change politics for good’. To be in a position to exploit what MP Esther McVey correctly observes is the ‘magnificent opportunity’ that Brexit creates, Britannia needs a Clean Brexit from the EU.

Boris Johnson understands the stakes: ‘A great open goal mouth glimmers ahead. We have missed it before. We cannot afford to miss it next time.’ But he is wrong about a successful Brexit being an open goal. The influential Remainer minority in Britannia has allied itself to the Remainer majority in Scotland fiercely to defend the status quo by blocking anything other than Brexit In Name Only. Indeed, arch-Remainer Amber Rudd is urging Brexiteers to throw in the towel on the idea of a Clean Brexit because ‘the numbers aren’t there’.  Philip Hammond and Dominic Grieve have vowed to bring down a Tory government rather than allow a Clean Brexit to happen.

To get the numbers they need, Brexiteers need to choose the right battlefield. And then win the battle.

The right battlefield is Britannia alone and not the UK. England and Wales have 573 seats in Parliament. Scotland has 59 seats, and basically none of them will support a Clean Brexit. So, to win a majority of seats in England, Wales, and Scotland, Brexiteers would (simplifying a bit) need to win 316 of the 573 seats in Britannia. If the battlefield is Britannia alone, Brexiteers would need to win only 287 of those 573 seats. Achieving a Grieve/Hammond/Rudd-proof Brexiteer majority in Britannia alone is obviously much easier than achieving such a majority in the UK as a whole.

The current Brexit impasse is going to lead to a general election. In this election, Brexiteers must campaign for a Clean Brexit via Britannian Independence (which Scotland will support as it will also lead to Scottish Independence). Notwithstanding the results of the YouGov poll referred to above, Brexiteers may find it difficult to campaign to end the union with Scotland. But the choice facing Brexiteers is either a Clean Brexit for Britannia alone or Brexit In Name Only (at best) for the UK as a whole. And it is just crazy to risk Brexit for Britannia to preserve a union with Scotland that the people of Scotland do not want.

From time to time in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them. Now is such a time for Britannia. Given a choice between becoming the EU’s first colony or a Clean Brexit via independence, I am confident that the next Tory leader and Nigel Farage can, working together, convince the people of Britannia to choose independence.

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Kevin R. James
Kevin R. James
Kevin R. James is a Research Fellow at Systemic Risk Centre, London School of Economics.

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