Britain is poised to leave the European Union on Friday next. Many speculate that Brexit may be the catalyst for the break-up of the United Kingdom, or the end of Britain as we know it. The effective break-up of the constitutional settlement that has held for over three centuries in Britain opens up a bold new arena for political and constitutional experimentation.
The constitutional settlement that has held for nearly three centuries in Britain is under pressure
I live in Scotland. Before the referendum in 2016, I expected Scotland to vote in favour of remaining in the European Union, as had happened in 1975, when Scotland voted to remain in what was then called the European Economic Community (EEC), but was renamed the European Union. I believed that the Scots had concluded that staying in the EEC had been an unhappy experience and that leaving would be something of an improvement. The Scottish National Party (SNP), which has dominated Scottish politics since the late 1970s, strongly supported remaining in the European Union. But there were serious doubts that this would translate into a vote in favour of independence in the referendum.
The Great Repeal BillBritain after Brexit
As the name suggests, the Great Repeal Bill is the post-Brexit legislation that will transfer European Union law into British law, in the form of a statutory instrument. This will start a two year process of integrating EU law into British law. The United Kingdom will also leave the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. However, the government wants to replace the court with its own body to apply UK law to cases that are brought to it. It also wants to have oversight and regulation powers over UK law, through judicial review. But one of the most controversial aspects of the Brexit legislation is the so-called ‘Henry VIII clause’, named after the Protestant King who had the court started in the 16th century.
The devolution settlement that has held for over 40 years is under pressure
Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the Brexit negotiations is the UK’s willingness to allow the European Court of Justice to have a legal role in the governance of Northern Ireland. The complexity of the talks over the nature of the jurisdiction of the Court has been reflected in the government’s tactics with the Prime Minister apparently showing little regard to the Irish concerns. The continued territorial elements of the constitutional settlement in the North of Ireland (even in the light of the consequent power-sharing agreement) appears to have precluded the potential for an agreement. On the other hand, London is apparently prepared to agree to some form of European court as the judges of which would presumably sit in Northern Ireland.
The union between the Scottish and the English is under pressure
In 18 months, the United Kingdom will split into two separate entities with radically different outlooks and outlooks. England will be the dominant player, because it voted 62 to 38 percent to leave the EU. Scotland voted 62 to 38 percent to remain in the EU. The United Kingdom could end up with two or more new nations: a strong English-only state in England and a weak Scottish state in Scotland. And Northern Ireland is expected to remain in the EU, but the future of Northern Ireland is uncertain. To many in England, the prevailing issue is “Brexit” or the decision to leave the EU. For this small island nation of 53 million people, Brexit is the only thing. On June 23, 2016, at 7:20 p.m., polls closed in Britain.
The union between the English and the Welsh is under pressure
On the eve of the Brexit vote, Wales’s First Minister Carwyn Jones said “we are in trouble here, our backs are against the wall and this really is the final fight.” The Welsh are likely to feel this acutely. They voted for Brexit by a massive margin, and have suffered high levels of unemployment as a result of the massive trade and investment shift away from their country. Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones says that the exit agreement that is currently being negotiated between the UK government and the European Union is the most toxic deal possible for Wales.
The union between the Irish and the British is under pressure
The Irish vote in favour of remaining in the EU, together with the Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish will be enough for Theresa May to come through the parliamentary vote. The only votes that may be lost in the Commons are on a few amendments, and those won’t be decisive. If the ERG members do not vote for the withdrawal bill, they can switch sides. And if Labour is defeated in the Commons on an amendment to rule out a no-deal Brexit, Corbyn can resign and Labour will no longer have a whip in the Commons. He’ll be free to vote with the Government. If the ERG vote against the withdrawal bill, it’s game over. In our view, the vote could be carried comfortably. The ERG may have voted that way because they don’t think they have enough leverage in the talks to prevent a no-deal Brexit.
Some experts have argued that the end of the European Union could usher in a new period of continental integration, a process that is underway in many other European countries and elsewhere. Indeed, the vote for Brexit has reignited the discussion on the future of the European Union. Indeed, discussions about the future of Europe have been largely absent from the public sphere in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. But this is likely to change, as the British vote to leave the EU has indicated that the days of the British EU membership may be numbered.