Is the United Kingdom a Mini-EU?

gb flagsRonan McCrea, Barrister and Senior Lecturer in Law at UCL, draws parallels between the political structure of the UK and the European Union and argues that, with the growth of independence movements in Scotland and Wales, the UK increasingly resembles a loose collection of sovereign nations.

The United Kingdom is to leave the European Union, partly in order to protect the right to self-government of the UK as a nation state as expressed through the sovereignty of the Westminster Parliament. Interestingly, the reaction to the decision to leave the EU reveals the degree to which through a combination of devolution with increased recourse to referendums, the United Kingdom has drifted into being a kind of voluntary grouping of sovereign nations that bears significant similarities to the European Union. Continue reading

Exit plan: how Scotland and Northern Ireland can remain in the EU

stakesPublic discussions about how the UK is to exit from the European Union have been too simplified, and have failed to come up with any solution that recognises that only England and Wales in fact voted to leave. Brendan O’Leary, Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania, outlines a way forward where those nations wanting to remain in the EU might be able to do so.

There has as yet been no Brexit, and there will not be – because there is no such entity as ‘Britain’. There could, however, be a UKexit. But those who insist that a 52-48 vote is good enough to take the entire UK out of the EU would trigger a serious crisis of legitimacy.

England and Wales have voted to leave the European Union, but Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Gibraltar have voted to remain. These differing outcomes have to be the central focus of political attention while we wait for the debris of broken expectations to settle. Continue reading

Brexit: The mother of all uncertainties

BrexitIn the aftermath of last week’s EU referendum, the only thing we can be certain of is uncertainty, writes Professor Paul Ekins, Director of the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources, as he outlines two absolutely contrasting scenarios.

So the British people have voted by a margin of around 4%, a little more than 1 million votes, to leave the European Union (EU). Where this will lead lies somewhere between two absolutely contrasting scenarios.

On the positive side, we can imagine that the months before the election of the new British Prime Minister in October see some healing of the great divide that has opened up in the UK, a decision by Scotland not to pursue independence, and Sinn Féin not to pursue a referendum on Irish reunification, a steadying of the economy by the Bank of England and current Chancellor, and therewith a steadying in both the stock and currency markets. Then, in October or November, the new Prime Minister presses the button on Article 50, to be met by a conciliatory European Commission which, over time, makes it clear that UK Associate Membership of the Internal Single Market can indeed be accompanied by restrictions on EU freedom of movement and less need for the UK to implement EU legislation. This takes the heat out of the UK Brexit impulse, so that agreement on UK/EU terms of engagement, which involves minimal disruption to trade and investment, swiftly follows. Businesses and the financial sector heave a sigh of relief and get on with business as usual. The damage of Brexit to the UK and EU economies, and to the UK and EU politically, is minimal, far less than was forecast by practically everyone. ‘Experts’, especially economists, become the butt of more jokes. In five years’ time the UK’s position in Europe is a bit like Norway’s, but immigration has been restricted by the new curbs on freedom of movement. Leavers are delighted and say ‘I told you so’. Remainers are mightily relieved that the meltdown they feared has not occurred. The curbs on the freedom of movement of labour are used by other EU Member States to take the heat out of their populist movements. The ‘reformed’ EU continues more or less as before. Continue reading

Scotland and Brexit: A path to independence or crisis?

flags_scotland_ukThe likely impact of Brexit on the relationship between Scotland and the rest of the UK has made all the headlines but, says Kirsty Hughes, that is just the most obvious of the constitutional difficulties posed by a vote to leave.

The EU referendum could be held as early as June – if the vote is for Brexit, a UK-wide political crisis is likely.

Recent polls for Scotland suggest almost two-thirds of the population support staying in the EU. Polls in Northern Ireland also suggest a clear majority in favour, while in Wales opinion more narrowly supports the EU. So a UK vote for Brexit could mean that England voted ‘leave’ (at the level of 53% or more against the EU), while the other three constituent parts of the UK voted ‘remain’. Continue reading