Published on June 25th, 2016 | by Patrick Bell1
The political ramifications of ‘Brexit’
The views expressed in this post are my own and are not reflective of the Tertangala or the University of Wollongong
Make no mistake; the political instability in the United Kingdom has in no way ended after Britain voted to leave the European Union. If anything, it has intensified.
The vote, which was the culmination of a massive uptake in British nationalist sentiment, has triggered the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron, who effectively led the failed ‘In’ campaign. Two Labour MPs have also submitted a no confidence motion in their leader Jeremy Corbyn. It has also raised questions about the possible disintegration of the United Kingdom in general.
The breakdown of the vote was incredibly stark. The vast majority of England and Wales voted to leave the EU, whilst Scotland and Northern Ireland voted overwhelmingly to stay. If these two countries are so desperate to be part of the EU, they each have an obvious option at their disposal; declare independence from the United Kingdom.
In the case of Scotland, this is particularly likely. A previous independence vote occurred in September 2014, with a victory for the ‘No’ campaign by a margin of roughly 55-45. At the 2015 general election, however, the Scottish National Party (SNP), the main advocates of independence, increased their representation in the House of Commons nine fold, and currently hold 54 out of 59 Scottish seats in the parliament. They are a potent force in Scottish politics, and their leader, Nicola Sturgeon, has already said she will push for another independence referendum. Once independent, they could go about joining the European Union themselves.
The process for Northern Ireland would be slightly different. A referendum in that country wouldn’t be a question of independence, but rather, whether or not to join the Irish republic. Sinn Féin, Ireland’s left-wing nationalist party has already called for a vote on this question as soon as possible. Unlike the Scottish vote though, this would be less likely to succeed. Sinn Féin only hold four out of 18 northern Irish seats in the House of Commons, meaning they have less political capital that the SNP. As well as this, it’s hard to imagine the people of Northern Ireland putting aside over a century of fierce conflict with republicans simply because they want to be a part of the EU.
At this stage, there is only speculation about these referendums occurring, and it would take a significant time before they came about if they were agreed to. Even so, the key take away from the ‘Brexit’ vote is the incredible disunity currently creeping over Her Majesty’s United Kingdom.
Feature image found here