The new Prime Minister of Great Britain promises that the country will leave the European Union at any cost by the end of October, but nationalist groups in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales do not support his policy. A further clash of interests between the ruling party of England and regional parties could lead to the collapse of the United Kingdom.
In the case of “no-deal” Brexit, Boris Johnson will try to maintain a united United Kingdom, but he will have to confront pro-European regional sentiments. During his visits to four states belonging to the Kingdom, the new Prime Minister faced opponents of his uncompromising approach to Brexit: the head of government intends to ensure the country’s exit from the European Union on October 31 without a deal.
In Scotland, Johnson was booed by pro-Europeans and fighters for independence from England. Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister and leader of the Scottish National Party, told local media that the prime minister did not have the courage to meet with the Scots during his visit. In Wales, Johnson is criticized for not having a plan to prevent the most severe consequences of “no-deal” Brexit, especially for Welsh farmers.
The First Minister of Wales, Mark Drekford, noted that the new conservative leader is demonstrating a “disturbing lack of specificity.” Northern Ireland, in turn, threatened by the most serious consequences of an exit without a deal – the construction of a wall on the border with the Republic of Ireland and a possible return to sectarian violence – greeted Johnson with protests and posters “Brexit is the frontier.” The Prime Minister is particularly unpopular in this part of the Kingdom due to his neglect of the peace process in Northern Ireland and the lack of awareness of the difficulties that may arise with the resumption of postponed measures for the separation of powers.
Such sentiments are a problem for the Prime Minister, who in his policy relies on Brexit at any cost and the unification of his country. Preservation of unity is an extremely important point for the Conservative and Unionist Party led by him. However, unionism has lost its appeal to the British electorate, especially after the Brexit referendum.
“I won’t be surprised if a Brexit without a deal will later be considered by historians as an event that led to a split in the United Kingdom,” said Rob Ford, a professor of political science at the University of Manchester. He explained that Brexit is most supported by English nationalists who are not interested in the European Union, so they are ready to donate it. Thus, in England, the most populated and strongest part of the United Kingdom, the same groups advocating the principle of “England first” stand for leaving the EU.
In Northern Ireland, everything is completely different: the most ardent defenders of Brexit are unionists who consider unthinkable any separation from the main part of the Kingdom. Each time there is a question about the border with the Republic of Ireland or about the maritime border with Great Britain, they will prefer the former. Irish Republicans, on the other hand, oppose borders between parts of Ireland at all costs.
The most uncompromising ones want Ireland to eventually become united again. A recent study confirms that those who call themselves Irish still favor united Ireland, unlike those who feel more British. However, the survey also showed that over the past 20 years, more and more residents of Northern Ireland do not identify with either Unionists or Republicans. Not being ardent supporters of a united Ireland, they nevertheless begin to see in it the inevitable consequence of “no-deal” Brexit.
Meanwhile, in Scotland, opposing independence advocates for Brexit. According to Rob Ford, when the Scottish National Party proposes a second independence referendum to join the EU, Scottish Eurosceptics will not want to change London’s pointer to Brussels’s. This opens up the opportunity for Nicola Sturgeon and her nationalists to become a party in Scotland in favor of maintaining membership in the European Union.
As the information site recalls, in 2014, 55% of Scots voted to stay in the United Kingdom. At that time, this referendum was planned to be held every time a generation change. Given that in a Brexit referendum, 62% of Scots opposed leaving the EU, and Johnson’s conservatives are promoting the toughest form of Brexit, we can understand why Scottish nationalists are optimistic about the second referendum.
Thus, in Northern Ireland and Scotland, the majority (56% and 62% respectively) oppose Brexit and may shy away from Johnson’s Unionist ideas. In contrast, Wales voted for Brexit and cannot boast of a strong independence movement, but nationalism is well developed here, whose supporters, according to historical tradition, do not like conservatives and hate Johnson’s proposed exit without a deal. The Prime Minister has the task of preventing them from voting and giving more seats to the opposition to the Welsh Parliament.