Wales becoming independent would not mean the end of the UK, according to George Osborne.
The former Tory Chancellor, who insisted he meant “no disrespect”, made the comments in the Evening Standard, the London newspaper of which he is editor-in-chief.
Mr Osborne also said that Northern Ireland is “already heading for the exit door” but that most people in the UK “will not care”.
But he said that Scotland is an “altogether different matter” because of its contribution to “literature and philosophy, exploration and art”, and that “the future of the UK the central political issue of the coming decade” because of Brexit.
He said: “By unleashing English nationalism, Brexit has made the future of the UK the central political issue of the coming decade.
“Northern Ireland is already heading for the exit door. By remaining in the EU single market, it is for all economic intents and purposes now slowly becoming part of a united Ireland.”
He added: “Its prosperity now depends on its relationship with Dublin (and Brussels), not London. The politics will follow.
“Northern Irish unionists always feared the mainland was not sufficiently committed to their cause.
“Now their short-sighted support for Brexit (and unbelievably stupid decision to torpedo Theresa May’s deal that avoided separate Irish arrangements) has made those fears a reality. It pains me to report that most here and abroad will not care.
“Scotland is an altogether different matter. Its history is our history. Its contribution to the world through its literature and philosophy, exploration and art, is our contribution.
“Its departure — with no disrespect to the Welsh — would represent the end of the United Kingdom. The rest of the world would instantly see that we were no longer a front-rank power, or even in the second row.”