What would happen if the UK disintegrated?

In the long term, this is a strong possibility regardless of whether an English parliament is instituted. Devolution has predictably increased the sense of nation amongst the various Celts and given fuller reign to the widespread resentment of England. These traits will grow, sustained by a number of fantasies. The Scots dream of an Eldorado of oil revenues enjoyed by Scotland alone. The Scots and the Welsh dwell in a fantasy  world in which they are funded by the EU with the same largesse as the Irish Republic. The Ulster republicans dream of the same in a unified Ireland.

For England it is difficult to envisage any insuperable disadvantage in the break up of the UK, but easy to see definite and substantial advantages. She would be shorn of the burden of Celtic subsidies, both direct and indirect, while her very considerable population, wealth and general sophistication would ensure that she could maintain without any real  difficulty  the present levels of government provision from the welfare state to the military. Moreover, England would be able to act wholeheartedly in her own interests rather than constantly tailoring national decisions to take into account the demands of the Celts, who in all honesty, increasingly resemble a squadron of albatrosses  around Albion’s neck.

The only important disadvantages for England could be balance of payments difficulties (primarily from the loss of oil, gas and whiskey production) and ructions in the international institutional sphere. Happily, adverse balances of trade are(eventually) self-correcting even if the correction, as is the case with America, can seem an age coming. Moreover, with the free global currency market and a floating pound, an  adverse balance of trade does not hold the horrors it once did, for international borrowing is infinitely easier than it was even ten years past and  devaluation of the currency is not viewed as a national humiliation. England might be temporarily embarrassed by a substantially increased trade deficit, but there is no reason to believe that it would be prolonged or seriously affect the English economy.

As for international upheaval, it is conceivable  that England would be unable to sustain a claim to Britain’s privileged position on international bodies such as the UN Security Council and the board of IMF. However, this is unlikely for a number of reasons. To begin with there is the precedent of Russia which assumed all of the Soviet Union’s  international entitlements.  Britain is also the United States’  only halfway reliable ally on most of  these international boards.  To this may be added Britain’s position as one of the larger international paymasters and providers of reliable military muscle. None of these facts  need essentially change with the substitution of England for Britain. Perhaps most importantly, the denial to England of any of Britain’s institutional places would pose the awkward question of who was to take any vacant position. This could(and almost certainly would) in turn raise the whole question of whether the constitutions of most world bodies are  equitable or suited to the modern world. (The constitutions were after all created approximately fifty years ago and are in no sense equitable). To deny England could mean the opening of a can of worms. Conversely, it could be plausibly argued  that membership of such  international  bodies represents a liability rather than an advantage and England would be well shot of them.

None of the would be Celtic states,  unlike England,  would be large enough or rich enough to maintain government spending and services at anywhere near the current level.  Moreover, the cost of their separate state administrations would almost certainly be proportionately  substantially greater than that of England because of the loss of the  advantages of scale.  Nor for reasons already stated would they be likely to obtain the largesse currently handed out to the Republic of Ireland by the EU. Indeed, it is quite probable that all or some of them could be refused membership of the EU because of Germany’s fear of incurring liabilities for more beggar nations.

It is also reasonable to ask what would happen if an external military threat appeared. (Unlikely in the immediate future but not improbable over the next fifty years). Even if independent  Celtic states were members of the EU, it is carrying optimism to the limit to imagine that they would receive active military help from that quarter. In the end  they would have to turn to England for help.

The Celts should also realise that an independent England might well leave the EU. Then she  could act, without infringing any of its general international obligations, in ways which would gravely disadvantage the Celts. She could impose passport regulations.  She could refuse  reciprocal social security and health provisions. She could insist upon  work permits. Because the need for  emigration is much greater in the Celtic parts of Britain than in England and the number of Celts on benefit in England vastly exceeds that of the English in Scotland, Wales and Ulster, such measures could be utterly calamitous for independent Celtic states.

There is also the ticklish problem of the national debt. In the event of the independence of Scotland, Wales or Ulster,or the amalgamation of Ulster with the Irish Republic, a proportionate share (based on population) of the UK national debt would have to be borne by a seceding part of the UK. Scotland’s share, for example, would be currently in excess of 30 billion pounds; that of Wales approximately 15 billion.  Even at current rates, the financing of the interest alone would cost between two and three billion a year.

Ulster  has a particular problem whether  it  remains independent or becomes submerged in a united Ireland. The removal of English subsidies alone would be a massive blow because  they are of a different magnitude (when  the expenditure of the armed forces in Ulster and special compensation payments for terrorist actions are taken into account) to those in Scotland and Wales. But if the EU refused to continue, either in whole or in part, subsidising the Republic of Ireland, Ulster would almost certainly have to bear a massive decline in Irish cross border trading.

When it comes to paying their own way, independent  Celtic states would also have to consider the effect of confidence on their finances. If independent Celtic states were deemed to be poorer credit risks than Britain is now as a whole, which is probable, they would have to pay more for their future  public and private borrowing in the form of higher  interest rates. That would apply whether or not they were members of EMU, for a universal ECB bank rate does not mean that everyone can borrow at the same rate. A lender still has to believe that the borrower is worth the risk.

Even if the most favourable conditions envisaged by Celtic Nationalists could be secured – essentially  the  same conditions currently enjoyed by the Republic of Ireland, Portugal etc – the omens would not be good. To begin with beggar nations within the EU can never be sure that the money  will keep hitting the bottom of the begging bowl. To have an economy as dependent upon handouts as the Republic of Ireland’s is simply courting disaster. Then there is the natural price to pay for such money, the supporting of the donor nations through thick and thin. This can, and often does mean,  going against the direct interest of one’s own people. (England – because it is from England rather than Britain that the EU Danegeld is extracted in practice –  has the sovereign distinction of uniformly voting against the interests of its people and being the paymaster to the beggar nations). Nor should beggar nations be under any illusion that the EU will generally protect their interests in international disputes. The equation is quite clear: votes for money and to hell with the long term interests of the populations of the poorer EU states if these clash with the interests of the powerful.

Looked at unsentimentally, the prospect for an independent Scotland, Wales or Ulster is one of poverty, a decayed welfare state, established companies moving across the border into England, foreign companies refusing to settle because of a lack of subsidies and the absence of the security of a large nation state, massive emigration of the middle classes and extreme levels of unemployment for those left behind.

But what about the oil and gas? I can hear the Scots Nationalists  positively screaming. Well, the current tax take is relatively trivial in terms of the revenue an independent Scotland would require.  (It would probably  finance their share of the national debt at current rates).  Moreover, not all oil is in Scottish waters. Further, even the revenues from oil within Scots waters might be claimed in part by both the various islanders, who fear  rule from Edinburgh, and England (on the grounds that because the project was started when Britain was a unitary state, the rewards should continue to be split proportionately according to the new  states’ various populations). There are also the unfortunate facts that British oil is very expensive to produce and may well become uncompetitive as countries such as China expand production or other forms of energy become cheaper, and, more definitely,  oil extraction at its present level is unlikely to last for more than another generation. Oil and gas production revenues would be a poor pair of crutches to prop  up an impoverished independent Scotland.

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13 Responses to What would happen if the UK disintegrated?

  1. Maria says:

    Celtic? Sure you know your history?

  2. oneill says:

    “In the long term, this is a strong possibility regardless of whether an English parliament is instituted”

    In none of the three er…”Celtic” is there anywhere near a majority on the horizon for separation, so why do you reckon it’s a strong possibility?

    • oneill wrote: ‘ … In none of the three er…”Celtic” is there anywhere near a majority on the horizon for separation … ‘

      The future of the ‘union’ is not for the Celts to determine. Should the people of England vote to dissolve a ‘union’ that brings us only disadvantage and debt, the ‘union’ will be dissolved, whether the peoples of the little nations have any appetite for independence or not, and there is a growing realisation in England that the little nations of the ‘union’ have far too much influence in our affairs and cost us far more than they are worth to us.

    • You make the very rash assumption that England will not decide to become independent.

  3. oneill says:

    “In the long term, this is a strong possibility regardless of whether an English parliament is instituted”

    I took that as meaning that the dissolution of the UK will occur regardless of what happens in its “little nations”? Or are you anticipating an independent England operating without a parliament?

  4. oneill says:

    Sorry, typed too fast without engaging brain. That should read:

    “I took that as meaning that the dissolution of the UK will occur regardless of what happens in England?”

    It may be a pedantic point but there is a lazy assumption amongst many Scottish, Welsh and Irish nationalists that it is inevitable their part of the UK will separate. The actual figures at the ballot box do not, at this stage, provide any evidence for that assumption. I would never say “never” in that regard to England being the catalyst for the break-up but at this stage, I can’t see it becoming the policy for any of the mainstream parties for the forseeable future. Constitutional change can obviously happen without the backing of a party machinery but I suspect you’ll need a much stronger groundswell of popular support than you seem to have at the minute.

  5. shaun the brummie says:

    we english should get the f**k out of this prison called the united kingdom.let scotland,wales and northern ireland go their own way,and they can be as anti english as they want…..we’ll keep our money in our pockets thank you very much……….

  6. The sooner Englad is “independant” the better. The other countries take out but do not contribute anything

  7. Your celtic friends says:

    England would be fucked because there would be a celtic union and we’d kick you out of ur country and send you to Iraq where you can be eaten for dinner

  8. William – I can assure you the firm guiding hand I am thinking of would be very firm indeed.

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