Great Britain becomes … Little England


DW Benedict von Imhoff (DPA)

Edited by: Giannis Papadimitriou

No, the beautiful Andros was not discovered by the German News Agency (DPA). Awards the title of “Little England” with a mocking and rather pessimistic mood in the once state-owned Great Britain, for which it wonders whether it is on the verge of collapse. Hours had passed since the last election in Scotland for local Prime Minister Nicholas Sturgeon to realize that “there is a growing sense that the United Kingdom, in its present form, can hardly meet the needs of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, perhaps even England “.

All the recent British elections seem to be consolidating the conclusion that fewer and fewer are willing to come under the direct rule of London. A typical and most recent example is Northern Ireland, the smallest “nation” in the United Kingdom and the historical developments recorded there after the last local elections. For the first time in this election, Sinn Fein triumphs, a party that declares its main goal to be reunited with the Republic of Ireland.

The “bet” of demography

Of course, the road to the reunification of the “green island” will be long and arduous, if nothing else because of the security valves provided by law to balance the power of Catholics with that of Protestants in a country that, until a few years ago , had sunk into a civil war. However, according to recent polls, 30% of Northern Irish people now view the reunification of the island positively, while in 2014 the corresponding percentage did not exceed 6%. In addition, the supporters of reunification have at their side the … demographic developments.

It is estimated that more Catholics, who traditionally support the reunification of Ireland, now live in Northern Ireland than Protestants, most of whom want to remain loyal to the British crown. But after Brexit, even among the Unionists, there are now many young people who expect better living conditions in Ireland, an EU member state.

Referendum in 2023 in Scotland?

In Scotland, Prime Minister Stargeon’s ruling National Party (SNP) has managed to improve its turnout in the last municipal elections and is considering holding an independence referendum in late 2023. It will soon launch the necessary legislation, she announced after the municipal elections. However, a referendum requires the consent of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has so far denied any discussion. In a previous referendum in 2014, Scots voted in favor of staying in the UK, but many today claim Brexit has changed the picture. The courts are expected to have the final say.

As for the Welsh, in the Brexit referendum in 2016, most people voted in favor of leaving the EU, in contrast to what happened in Northern Ireland and Scotland. But the implementation of Brexit has caused great frustration. In opinion polls conducted in 2014, only 5% supported Wales’ independence, while today the percentage has jumped to 30%. In the last municipal elections, the pro-independence Green Party managed to increase its turnout. Science politician Richard Wynn estimates that the number of Welsh self-proclaimed Britons has dropped from 27% to 19% and argues that Brexit is largely an “English affair”.

Boris Johnson

In the UK, no one is as supportive of Brexit as conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson. This is why they hate him in many parts of the country. In Scotland and Wales, but also in the city of London, the Conservative Party is recording serious losses. Former Conservative general secretary Chris Patten says “part of the party has been transformed into a patchwork of nationalist and populist rhetoric.”

Obstacles to independence

But is all this enough to launch the process of independence? In Northern Ireland, constitutional barriers make it difficult to hold a referendum. In Scotland, many fear that a secession from Britain will lead to economic misery. In Wales the pro-British Labor Party remains dominant in the game, having managed to reconcile nationalist with trade union traditions. “And yet, last week’s election is another step in the direction we have already set,” said Open Democracy. “And the Johnson administration is not doing anything to persuade us.”


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