It's often suggested that Brexit could lead to the break-up of the UK. But could the reverse be true?by Martin Kettle / July 19, 2018 / Leave a comment
Published in August 2018 issue of Prospect Magazine
When England and Wales voted to leave the EU in 2016 but Scotland voted to stay, many—not least in the SNP—thought Brexit would break the Union. Theresa May’s absolute insistence that the UK as a whole had voted to leave seemed designed to provoke Scots into revolt.
It hasn’t worked out that way. Try as she might, Nicola Sturgeon has failed to persuade Scots that a break with Europe should herald a break with England. Scottish opinion has proved stubbornly hard to win over.
Scottish separatists are more divided over the EU than the SNP likes to admit, and the party slipped back in the 2017 election. Better the Unionist devil you know, perhaps; especially because, after Brexit, Scotland might have to join the eurozone and maybe Schengen if it wanted to get back into the EU.
But, if Brexit is now reversed, what then? Suddenly the uncertainty factor that has frustrated all Sturgeon’s efforts to fan the pro-independence mood would disappear. The nationalist offer would suddenly be on more solid and predictable ground.
Going it alone politically could seem an awful lot easier with Scotland safely back inside a single market, not just with the other 27 EU member states, but with England too. And if staying in the EU led to an uptick of economic optimism, then it might be just time for another shot at independence.
Scots would be able to say that enough is enough for the political Union with England—an England that had played fast and loose with Scottish interests during the now aborted Brexit process—and now safe in the knowledge that the economics was solid and sorted.