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15 February, 2021 07:26:08 PM

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Brexit may tear apart the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom was a part of the European Union and the reason why the independence referendum didn't get a majority vote was the skepticism to leave the European Union as the Scottish future in the European Union was not sure.
Kazi Fahim Ahmed
Brexit may tear apart the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is facing its most critical period after World War II. The separatist movement in Scotland and Northern Ireland has placed the union's future in doubt.

All of these are the result of Brexit which has paved the nationalist independence movement in Scotland to join the European Union and nationalist movement in Northern Ireland for the reunification with the Republic of Ireland.

The United Kingdom consists of four constituent countries. They are England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Kingdom of Great Britain was formed in 1707 between the Kingdom of England (included wales) and the Kingdom of Scotland. It was followed by the formation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1801 between the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland. But in 1922, the independence of the Republic of Ireland left a small part of Ireland and formed the current shape of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

That similar shape of the United Kingdom has survived World War II and three referendums for Scottish political status. But this time, the separatist movement is far stronger than those in the previous times and of course with valid reasons.

The strongest separatist movement is seen in Scotland which has participated in a referendum for independence in 2014, though the result of that referendum was in favour of the United Kingdom. But after the Brexit, the Scottish National Party (SNP) has vowed for another referendum on Scottish independence. And the fear is, this time, their success is vibrant as the poll showed that Scottish people have voted against Brexit with a huge number to stay in the European Union.

However, their voice was not heard by the Westminster which left the Scottish people only one choice and it is independence. The Scottish National Party currently holds 47 of Scotland's 59 seats in Westminster and the party is expected to win an absolute majority in this year's Scottish parliament election. And their main agenda is to go for a referendum again which has increased their popularity among the Scottish people. Last time, when they held the majority in the Scottish parliament in 2011, they had gone for a Scottish independence referendum within three years in 2014.

In 2014, the circumstances were different. The United Kingdom was a part of the European Union and the reason why the independence referendum didn't get a majority vote was the skepticism to leave the European Union as the Scottish future in the European Union was not sure. But this time, the United Kingdom itself is not a part of the EU. As a result, the Scottish people are now more open to independence. Moreover, the handling of the Covid-19 across the other parts of the United Kingdom was not good compared to the management in Scotland by the Scottish National Party leadership which has also bolstered SNP's acceptance rate in Scotland. So, the unionist in the United Kingdom should take preparation for the consequences.

On the other hand, the separatist movement in Northern Ireland has also got some momentum after the Brexit. In 2019's general election of the United Kingdom, the nationalist party in Northern Ireland got more seats than the pro-unionist party for the first time. And that same nationalist party seeks to rejoin the Republic of Ireland.

As a result of Brexit, Dublin and Belfast has come closer than it was before. Because after the Brexit, the goods from Northern Ireland don't face any custom barrier as it was before but those similar goods face custom barriers when they enter other parts of the United Kingdom. And it has undoubtedly created distance between Belfast and London. It has also paved the way for the reunification of Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland.

However, the independence of Scotland or the reunification of Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland has to go through the Westminster. United Kingdom's current Prime Minister Boris Johnson has already vowed to reject any request to hold another referendum on Scottish independence. On the other hand, opposition Labour party leaders are also skeptical about it. But all of these can change as the general election of the United Kingdom is to be held in 2024. If any of the major parties fail to acquire a majority in Westminster then the Scottish National Party can be the game-changer. They can demand a referendum in exchange for a coalition in Westminster.

Though the Scottish independence and the secession of Northern Ireland seems vibrant, it is still not inevitable. There's a saying that whenever England has been at odds with Scotland, there's an internal problem among the Scottish. Last week, there was a high-level tension among the Scottish National Party leadership about a sexual harassment case.

Moreover, a recent monthly poll by SavantaComRes shows that the support for Scottish independence has fallen for the first time in three months. Poll shows about 47% of Scots are intending to vote "Yes" for independence, 42% intending to vote "No" and 10% voters are unsure.

In terms of Northern Ireland, people could also choose to stay with London over Dublin for many reasons. Irish people in Northern Ireland enjoy better education and they also have access to United Kingdom's world's best higher education system. They may also consider United Kingdom's praised National Health Service over Ireland's privatize health system.

The most important thing is that the United Kingdom has successfully lived several critical situations in history and it may live current ones too. But growing nationalist movement around the world and the current multipolar world system has placed the UK in a challenging position.

The unionist in the United Kingdom should not ignore the ability of the nationalist separatist movement. They should acknowledge the situation and act cautiously. Otherwise, Brexit will be remembered as the dismantler of the United Kingdom's current shape in history.

The writer is a student of Department of International Relations
University of Dhaka. Email:
[email protected].
 

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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