As the dust settles on the results of United Kingdom’s referendum, Britain is realizing that its exit from the European Union will mean breaking up more than just Europe and Britain. It is possible that this could be a death knell for the United Kingdom.
Both Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain within the European Union. Unfortunately for both countries, the overall vote from Britain means that they too will be forced to exit the European Union, which is a major income source for both Scotland and Northern Ireland’s economies.
In Scotland, where the national vote in the exit referendum was an overwhelming vote of 62 percent to 38 percent for the Remain camp, emotions are running high. Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, declared hours after the official results that it was democratically unacceptable for Scotland to be taken out of the EU against its will.
Affirming that she and her government would be conducting discussions with EU officials to deliberate their situation, Sturgeon was clearly keeping all options open.
“I intend to take all possible steps and explore all possible options to give effect to how people in Scotland voted, in other words, to secure our continuing place in the EU, and in the single market in particular,” said Sturgeon, according to the Telegraph.
According to the Independent, she also said that a second independence referendum is clearly an option.
“To ensure that that option is a deliverable one within the required timetable, steps will be taken now to ensure that the necessary legislation is in place,” she said.
Watch Sturgeon make a statement on the “leave” vote win, and take questions from the press in this video from FRANCE 24 English:
Reunified Ireland or political disarray
Likewise, in Northern Ireland there has been signs of rethinking the country’s position in the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland’s Deputy Minister, Martin McGuiness, has stated that there now is a case for a border poll on a united Ireland. Arguing that the “UK now has no democratic mandate to represent the view of the people in Northern Ireland in the EU,” McGuiness went on to express that Brexit would create very serious problems for economic development in Northern Ireland, reported the Independent.
This position is supported by a recent study conducted by the Canadian consultancy KLC and the University of British Columbia, which said:
“Northern Ireland is falling ever further behind the Republic in terms of economic development” and future relations between North and South “potentially could become more problematic due to the possibility of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU”.
Highlighting this risk, Sinn Fein’s national chairman Declan Kearney stated that:
“We now have a situation where Brexit has become a further cost of partition, a further cost of the Union and Sinn Féin will now press our demand, our long standing demand, for a border poll,” reported Business Insider.
While Sinn Fein’s party president, Jerry Adams, declared that the Brexit vote had created a democratic imperative for the reunification of the two states, he called upon the leader of the Republic of Ireland (Eire), Taoiseach Enda Kenny, to think “nationally in a real sense” as “the Irish government needs an all-island, all-Ireland view.”
Watch this video from Sinn Féin, where Sinn Féin’s President Gerry Adams states that the British government has no mandate for negotiating a Brexit on behalf of the people of the North of Ireland:
According to the previously mentioned study, a unified Ireland would see the GDP in a unified Ireland rise by €30m to €152m in the first year of implementation. “In total, Irish unification could boost all-island GDP in the first eight years by as much as €35.6bn,” said the KLC and the University of British Columbia report.
However, in a sure sign of political disunity, Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster and Northern Ireland’s Secretary Theresa Villiers, who is in charge of calling for a border poll, both stated categorically that they believed Brexit did not meet the criteria for triggering a border poll.
Worries for nothing?
As the realities of Brexit become apparent, there may be no need for any of these measures. Firstly, there has been a precedent set by one member of the European Union that could be applied to Scotland and Northern Ireland. Denmark, an EU member, is in fact a union of three separate states: Denmark, the Faroe Islands, and Greenland.
While all three regions have positions in the Danish Folkting, or Parliament, Denmark itself is the only one of the three to be a member of the European Union. The Faroe Islands and Greenland are not. This precedent may possibly be applied to Northern Ireland and Scotland, allowing both countries to remain within the EU while Britain and Wales remain separate.
Secondly, there is a call in Britain for there to be a further vote in the House of Commons to rescind the referendum’s results. A petition is calling for there to be a debate and vote in parliament over the results of the referendum; currently, nearly 3 million people have signed the petition. It is hoped that this will force the government to halt Brexit.
Dr. Victoria Kelly-Clark received her doctorate in political science and international relations from the Australian National University. She has lived in Central Asia and specializes in the Middle East, Russia, and its former Soviet territories. For more information, go to Central Asia and Beyond.