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Leaving EU has hardened divisions between UK nations – “even in Wales”

11 Apr 2021 4 minutes Read
The flags of Wales, Scotland, England and the UK. Picture by Joowwww.

Business and data organisation Bloomberg said leaving the EU has hardened the divisions between the UK’s nations – “even in Wales.”

In an online article published today, (Sunday, April 11) writers Rodney Jefferson and Dara Doyle argue that there’s a growing sense that things will come to a head

They write: “Prime Minister Boris Johnson has a fondness for grand projects, but few are as eye-catching as the proposal for a physical link over the Irish Sea between Scotland and Northern Ireland.

“Whether a multi-billion-pound pipe dream or a token of ambition befitting the post-Brexit era, a feasibility study is underway as part of the government’s review of how to better bind the United Kingdom and its four constituent nations. A more immediate concern may be whether the link could one day connect two independent states that are no longer part of the U.K.

“As Britain marks 100 days since turning its back on the European Union, tussles have broken out with the continent over issues from customs checks to vaccination shots and financial services.

“Tensions at home are raising the spectre of a more existential conflict, however, one that will determine whether Johnson’s aim to strike out in the world under the banner of a reinvigorated “Global Britain” will need to be downgraded to a more humble “Global England.”

Scotland will hold elections in May 6 to its parliament in Edinburgh that are being cast as a vote on whether the nation has the right to—or the need for—another say on its constitutional future. Polls suggest the pro-independence Scottish National Party could sweep to a majority, a high bar given the proportional electoral system, and press its demands for a second referendum on splitting from the U.K.

In Northern Ireland, grievances are being nursed over its separate treatment from the British mainland in the Brexit deal struck between London and Brussels, and the province’s bitterly divided past is resurfacing as a result. More than 70 police officers were injured in a week of rioting by pro-British loyalists hurling petrol bombs. Polls suggest a remarkable shift in sentiment for a region for so long dominated by its Unionist community, with a majority now saying they want a vote on reunification with the Republic of Ireland within five years.

“Even in Wales, which unlike Scotland or Northern Ireland voted with England in favor of Brexit, support for independence has risen during the coronavirus pandemic. Wales holds elections to its regional assembly on May 6 also, and there’s a chance the governing Labour Party could have to share power with the nationalist Plaid Cymru party. Plaid has pledged to hold a vote on Welsh independence within five years.

‘Revolutionary’

“The breakup of the three-centuries-old union has been speculated over for decades, certainly long before Brexit became part of the vernacular. On their own, the developments in each of the three nations don’t necessarily spell revolutionary change, but speak to shifting cultural identities and varying degrees of political dissatisfaction with the center of power in London.

“Taken together, it’s hard to ignore a growing sense that things are inexorably coming to a head, whether to diminish the union or reinforce it, and that Brexit has lent those forces greater agency.

Matt Qvortrup, a professor of political science at Coventry University who served as a special adviser on U.K. constitutional affairs, adds: “But for Brexit, the union would be relatively safe, but I’m not so sure now. Change “won’t be the day after tomorrow, but give it 10 years.”

The article adds: “The challenge for Johnson, who was the driving force behind the successful campaign to ditch the EU in what was styled as a bid to reclaim British sovereignty, is how to cauterize the political wounds at home. His dilemma is sharpened by the fact that his Conservatives govern at Westminster, but not in Belfast, Edinburgh or Cardiff, where separate parties hold sway, reflecting the differing regional preferences of voters under a process known as devolution.”

 

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