Although both England and Wales voted to leave the EU last year, Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to stay provoking the constitutional crisis in both historic nations as Theresa May’s government in London prepares to invoke Article 50 and begin the process to extricate the wider UK from its forty year membership of the failing supranational body.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she intends to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence in about eighteen months time, just before the Brexit negotiations between the UK and the EU are due to conclude.
The Scottish National Party government in Edinburgh wants to remain part of the single market and following Scottish independence join the EU itself though both aims could be scuppered by certain member states, such as Spain, eager to block secessionist movements of its own, and the EU itself, as a result of such pressure, providing Scotland votes for independence when the referendum is finally held. Although Scottish voters opted to stay in the EU last year, they had previously voted emphatically to stay within the UK in 2014. However, the devolved Scottish government argues the circumstances have now changed, thanks to the wider UK Brexit vote, and Scotland could be forced to leave the EU against its will unless another independence referendum is held.
In Northern Ireland, Brexit has also played a role in the current constitutional crisis facing that part of Ireland, with Sinn Fein rejecting a ‘hard’ border between the north and south, as a result of Brexit, though the initial trigger was the financial scandal that engulfed the leader of the main unionist party, Arlene Foster. The leader of the Democratic Unionist Party refused to take responsibility for the scandal and stand down as Ulster’s First Minister. So Sinn Fein, now under the new leadership of Michelle O’Neil, following the resignation of the former IRA leader Martin McGuinness, withdrew their support from the power sharing arrangement in Northern Ireland, prompting the recent elections, which punished the DUP, and bolstered Sinn Fein, as a result.
In a slimmed-down Assembly, the DUP lost its automatic veto, winning only twenty eight seats, two short of the number needed, with Sinn Fein only one seat behind. The predominantly Catholic Social Democratic and Labour Party held its own, regaining its twelve seats, while the former dominant unionist party, the Ulster Unionist Party, lost six seats, winning only ten this time, and its hapless leader resigned. He subsequently faced criticism from hardline unionists after he had called on the UUP’s supporters to use their second preference vote in favour of the SDLP, rather than back the DUP.
Fresh elections may need to be held if a deal cannot be reached between the two main parties or direct rule from London will be imposed creating a massive headache for Westminster and the possible revival of paramilitary activity by IRA splinter groups and their loyalist equivalents.
During the negotiations, Sinn Fein is hoping to claim the scalp of the discredited Arlene Foster and push through some policy proposals previously vetoed by the DUP.
Like the SNP in Scotland, Sinn Fein is also gearing up for a possible referendum on whether Ulster should join the Republic of Ireland, thereby staying in the EU, if Brexit brings custom and immigration controls between the north and south of Ireland.
Although Scotland is inching towards formal independence, eventual membership of the EU will not prove a panacea, assuming it is allowed to join quickly after secession from the UK.
Scotland could be forced to join the Eurozone, also facing a profound crisis, which could prove terminal for the EU itself, in due course.
Ulster is torn between allegiance between London and Dublin, when it needs to stand on its own two feet and develop a way forward that embraces devolution and Ulster nationhood.
Very few people seem to be considering the attitude of people living in England (and Wales) to this anti-Brexit movement by both Scotland and Ulster.
Eventually, they may decide to say goodbye to both Scotland and Ulster.
With England once again free to make its own way in the world.