A ‘multi-national’ compromise? June 27, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
I’d been wondering at the assurance of the claims by the Scottish administration in regards to rerunning a referendum on independence, not because I disagree with them but simply because Sturgeon seemed so confident. And the link provided by SonofStan to this piece by Brendan O’Leary of the LSE neatly outlines why she might feel that way:
The Scots have every right to hold such a referendum, because the terms specified in the SNP’s election manifesto have been met—namely a major material change in circumstances.
Again, that this wasn’t foreseen by the Leave side, or rather it was ignored, is one of the many curiosities about everything we have seen in recent days. While I think – for many reasons articulated here, that Exit was a massive error on the part of the UK electorate, the prospect of independence for Scotland and other constitutional changes is almost, I stress, almost, something that makes up for it.
The sight of the UK government fighting on so many constitutional and effectively diplomatic fronts simultaneously, O’Leary mentions how the Spanish government hasn’t been shy in mentioning Gibraltar for example, is remarkable. It really is a storm of unprecedented severity. Michael White, in the course of a piece which I would have some very specific disagreements with in the Guardian (not least his analysis of Corbyn) did make one good point which was that he had never experienced a crisis of this magnitude for the British state in his lifetime. I don’t think any of us have – perhaps short of any one who lived through the second world war. Everything, literally everything, has been lesser, but by engaging with and winning a referendum on Brexit, the UK is now moving beyond the heated but frankly rather artificial angst of its former relationship with the EU (one whipped up in large part by politicians and a media who found it a useful diversionary tactic – and a means of pinning blame for their omissions) into rather more tangible constitutional issues that span the breadth and width of the UK itself and beyond.
O’Leary’s piece looks at various examples – Greenland, closer to home and fellow members of the British Irish Council, Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man, and so on. He suggests that:
Now consider politics going forward. Negotiating UKEXIT is not going to be easy for the next Prime Minister and Cabinet—indeed the difficulties may precipitate a re-alignment of party politics and a general election.
The Westminster parliament must give effect to the advisory referendum, and it will have to deliberate over the consequences of imposing an EU departure against the majority will of Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The consensual solution would be to negotiate for the secession of England and Wales from the EU, but to allow Scotland and Northern Ireland to remain—with MEPs, but without representation on the Council of Ministers, though with the right to have a single shared commissioner.
Of course this is blue sky thinking in a sense. The political problems may well cut across it. Leave may not care much about Scotland and Northern Ireland but would they be content to see those parts of the UK (as they are currently) remain within the EU? Well, perhaps. Perhaps it can be done. But the sense of a patchwork quality to the UK itself has surely never been greater, the air of contingency. I could well imagine a pushback by Leave on this.
Yet Leave is in for some hard lessons. O’Leary makes another point:
One state that was neglected in the referendum debate was the United States. Anyone who imagines that a UK-US trade agreement will get easily get through the American Senate has limited knowledge of US treaty-making. It will not matter whether President Clinton or President Trump is in the White House. When the new UK cabinet is formed it should recall President Obama’s serious warning that the UK will be in the back of the queue, and that therefore means that the bargaining power of the EU and its member-states will be strong. The constitutional compromise suggested here will calm the UK’s domestic politics, and give the EU a continuing stake in some of the UK.
That struck me as one of the most naive aspects of the Leave platform, the unwillingness to engage with the US or Canada or wherever as is, rather than as they wanted them to be. Sure, thumb your nose, but that act has ramifications for actual workers, actual people.
Finally O’Leary makes an excellent point:
There is one key lesson from the political science of multi-national states. They are usually not destroyed by secessionists alone. Rather, the key trigger that leads to the break-up of such states is the unilateral adjustment of the terms of the union by the centre, without the consent of its multi-national components.
That’s the key. That’s what those who prosecuted Leave so ferociously have seemed to ignore, whatever ones views on whether Leave was a good or bad thing in itself. No plan, no path, the danger being ultimately no UK.
Anyhow, it’s a fascinating piece more broadly and as SonofStan says well worth a read.