Watching England and Wales dragging Scotland and Northern Ireland out of the European Union against their will yesterday, it felt that something fundamental had changed for the first time since the United Kingdom was formed in 1707.
Fintan O’Toole, the Irish Times lead columnist, wrote “English nationalists it turns out would not give the froth of a pint of real ale for the Irish Peace process. They have recklessly imposed a land border between Newry and Dundalk between Letterkenny and Derry.”
O'Toole wrote the pro Brexit voters consider Northern Ireland “an irrelevant appendage of the motherland.”
In other words in less respectable terms, the English don’t give a fiddler’s fart about Scotland or Northern Ireland.
Scotland will be first to go with 2018 referendum already written into the political diary.
Yesterday morning as the Brexit vote was announced JK Rowling, an ardent opponent of Scottish independence and one of the richest women in the UK, took to Twitter to express her heartbreak.
Goodbye, UK. https://t.co/HMRA0AnlWR— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) June 24, 2016
It was clear to Rowling, who had campaigned tirelessly and successfully for Scotland to remain in the UK during the so-called Indyref, that all was finally lost.
But it was equally clear to Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon that Scottish independence had quietly been won. It is “unacceptable” for Scotland to be taken out of EU against its will, Sturgeon told the press, noting that the mandate to remain in the EU had come from the Scottish people themselves.
She then put Scotland on course for a new independence vote by autumn 2018, adding that the Scottish Parliament would begin preparing legislation for a second vote. She will not be joining England in their blindfold jump off a cliff, then.
As for Northern Ireland and it’s unanticipated EU and not EU citizenship paradox, Ireland’s brilliant comedy duo the Rubberbandits put it best:
People from N.Ireland with dual Irish/British passports will be both EU Citizens and not at the same time. Schrodingers Catholics— Rubber Bandits (@Rubberbandits) June 24, 2016
Schrodinger’s Catholics, here and not here, European and not European, important and unimportant. Has there ever been a better appraisal of what the Irish really mean to England?
It couldn’t be more obvious that England, it’s in bid to stick it to Brussels, didn’t give a flying thought to the fate of Northern Ireland, which voted to remain in the EU. For the Ulster Unionist community that’s a thing that will be harder to forgive since the devotion is now finally on record as being poignantly unrequited.
Now that the United Kingdom - for centuries a sort of byword for stoic self-containment - has lost the run of itself and thrown open this pandora's box, we are in an unsettling moment of transformation and free fall. Forces have been unleashed that we all should all dread.
As so often in life you have to follow the money to see where this lamentable folly might be heading next. Deep anger over immigration, booming economies in the city and stagnation in the country, and unaccountable bureaucrats in Brussels merely set the stage, England and Wales pulled the levers.
How long, I wonder, will a new English parliament be willing to foot seven billion a year to bankroll Northern Ireland’s social protections? And why would they even bother for people who actually voted against them in this toxic referendum?
Yesterday there was an unmistakable feeling shared by millions in the UK and Ireland, it was the sense of an ending. It felt like a death.
For many historians the British Empire finally came to an end with transfer of Hong Kong to China in 1997. But with their fairytale castles and stately homes, their flair for theatre and their inscrutable monarchy, the Brits held out longer, putting on a show of power right to the ignoble end, which arrived yesterday.
As in Harry Potter, Rowling’s most famous creation, the British empire has finally run out of horcruxes to prolong itself.
Even Rowling could feel it.