The clear intent of new British Prime Minister Theresa May is to create a federal United Kingdom with even more powers devolved to the three regions – Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – in order to keep the U.K. together.
Essentially, it looks like everything but defense policy will be handed over to the three entities. They will govern as they choose from within their own devolved parliaments.
That is, no doubt, why May has visited the three satellites as her first priority as prime minister and reassured them that Brexit would not cause catastrophic change – ignoring the fact that it already has.
May’s reassuring words in Northern Ireland that physical border controls would not be reinstituted was a major shift from her pre-Brexit stance when she stated the exact opposite. But she will also have to consult with the EU over the terms of any such deviation from EU rules.
Despite her best plans, however, it may be too late to salvage the U.K.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made it clear in remarks to a Scottish business group on Monday that independence for Scotland seemed by far the best strategy, given that 62 percent of Scots had voted to oppose Brexit and stay in the EU.
“I don’t pretend that the option of independence would be straightforward. It would bring its own challenges – as well as opportunities,” said Sturgeon.
“But consider this: the U.K. that we voted to stay part of in 2014 – a U.K. within the EU – is fundamentally changing. The outlook for the U.K. is uncertainty, upheaval and unpredictability.
“In these circumstances, it may well be that the option that offers us the greatest certainty, stability and the maximum control over our destiny, is that of independence.”
That seems a very clear cut analysis from the best politician in Britain or Ireland, a woman who so impressed during the latest British parliamentary elections that many English and Welsh wanted to vote for her.
Now Sturgeon is deeply upset by what has transpired. Clearly the Leave forces never for a moment foresaw the mass confusion and dislocation that has occurred.
But their lack of planning on the issue was nothing short of scandalous and has cast the U.K. into a full blown crisis which shows no sign of abating. As Sturgeon said, “The lack of planning by the leave side was one of the most shameful abdications of responsibility in modern political history.”
The English – not for the first time – failed to weigh the consequences of the action, and David Cameron’s decision to hold the vote in the first place will go down in history as one of the worst own goals of any politician.
He did it to appease a far right group within his own party and confidently expected to banish the issue forever after the referendum passed, but as Scottish poet Robert Burns remarks, “The best laid schemes of mice and men gang aft agley.”
The upheaval will not end anytime soon, and the dislocation for all the countries that comprise the United Kingdom will continue for some time.
The outcome is not clear, but Sturgeon has clearly shown the initiative and leadership so lacking in England. If Scotland goes it alone the U.K. falls apart and Northern Ireland will have to look to its own status.
It’s incredible that the English may have backed Northern Ireland into a united Ireland some time in the not so distant future.
Read more: A United Ireland after Brexit is a fantasy