The English Case for Union

BY DAVID HARTHILL

What vested interest have the English in the preservation of the United Kingdom?

Historically, England has won many battles against the French—Crecy, La Roche-Derrien, Poitiers, Agincourt, to name but some. Those battles were won despite English kings having to leave forces behind in the north to guard against opportunistic incursions by Scots. E.g. 1346, when a Scottish army marched south to eventual defeat at the Battle of Neville’s Cross; given what Edward III achieved with his curtailed forces, imagine what he might have achieved if he could have taken not only his northern armies with him, but a Scottish army too. The Angevin Empire might exist yet—and stretch to the Rhine (or the Volga). The point being, that if the lost opportunities of the past are not recognised, similar opportunities in the future risk being lost as well.

For centuries, English and Scottish kings have tried to nullify the respective threats from their borders; this was to some extent achieved with the amicable relations established between our James VI and England’s Elizabeth I. The shortcoming of convivial relations between leaders of separate countries is that the cordiality cannot be guaranteed to outlast the leaders themselves. Uniting the two countries obviates that issue.

While an independent England today need have no worries about invading Scottish armies, it will have to worry about a hostile SNP-run state.[1] A state that would seize every opportunity to act against England’s interests (just as the Republic of Ireland has proved a poor friend [2]) and cause mischief as part of any international institution it is allowed to join—one more vote against England in the UN, etc. Perhaps Sturgeon will even do a Merkel and invite the 3rd World in, many of whom will then flow south.

That since 1603 we are an island nation—a superb natural obstacle to any invader—is one of our greatest assets. E.g. at Corunna and Walcheren in 1809 and Dunkirk in 1940: instead of a defeated army run into the ground, our lads were evacuated to recover and fight again. If we had not been an island, Napoleon or Hitler would have rolled right over us, just as they rolled over every other nation except for Russia. Instead, we recovered most of our forces, and from the security of our island, were able to reassess what we were doing wrong, resolve, reinforce and re-equip, then go back at a time and place of our choosing. Not only today but for the foreseeable future, our surrounding seas and English Channel are a massive obstacle against any would-be invader;[3] and while there are currently no obvious potential invaders, no-one can know what the geopolitical situation will be in 100 years or 50 years or even in 10 years. (No-one anticipated WW1 becoming the slaughterhouse and destroyer of empires that it did, even in June 1914.[4])

Currently, the main threat to our borders is illegal immigrants. Again, our island affords us natural advantages: we need only ensure adequate coastal defences, which can be reduced as they go further north (no immigrants are rowing across the North Sea to the Orkneys). Unless an independent Scotland agrees similar immigration policies, a reduced England would be forced to the expense of building, maintaining and manning a substantial border barrier in addition to coastal defences. Certainly well within the resources of a reduced England—but why bother when all is needed is to extend existing coastal patrols & airport controls that we can share the cost of maintaining?

The British military was weakened by southern Ireland’s departure. Whereas in WW1, Ireland provided (without conscription) 206,000 servicemen,[5] in WW2 this was reduced to less than half (38,000 volunteered from NI and 43,000 from RoI). Our war against the U-boats was hampered by the loss of Ireland’s Atlantic ports—and airfields on Ireland’s west coast would have substantially improved the range and loiter time of our Coastal Command aircraft. Ireland gave us our greatest general with Wellington—who knows what other military genius we are missing with RoI gone? The loss of Scotland will not break the English military but it will weaken it, even more than the loss of southern Ireland: unlike Ireland/Northern Ireland where it was too politically sensitive to introduce conscription in either war or National Service post-war, there has never been a problem with conscription in Scotland—a decent reserve of manpower, if needed.

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It is often difficult to find any achievement or sacrifice, success or failure, that is wholly Scottish or English or anything else; it is nearly always a joint effort. For a random example, Al Murray in one of his Pub Landlord routines: ‘You say Bannockburn, I say Culloden.’ He is wrong in thinking Culloden a counterpart to Bannockburn: it was the final battle of a British civil war, a dynastic struggle, with Scots, English (with enough English Jacobites to form a ‘Manchester Regiment’) and Irish on both sides (something of a Scottish civil war, many of the Scots fighting for Hannover being the Protestant, more urbanised Lowlanders versus the rural, Catholic Highlanders). Or there is one of Britain’s—if not the world’s—greatest political philosophers, John Stuart Mill, born in London to a Scottish father and English mother. Arguing over whether Mill is Scottish or English is a hiding to nothing. As Aristotle wrote, ‘The whole is greater than the sum of its parts’.[6]

There is also the loss of prestige that a reduced England would suffer. We weathered the loss of Southern Ireland—as far as the world was concerned, we had just defeated three major world powers (Germany, Austro-Hungary and the Ottomans), considerably expanded our Empire (at German and Ottoman expense), and Ireland was not granted complete independence but rather dominion status, and it could reasonably be presumed the Irish Free State would become as loyal as the Union of South Africa had, despite the bitter war we had fought against the Boers. But there are no such distractions now: a reduced England would stand disgraced before the world, a nation unable to maintain its own territory and borders—in the face of a majority of the surrendered territory’s inhabitants being loyaland even its disloyal minority being entirely passive, not exploding a single bomb or firing a single bullet or even throwing a single brick. (N.b. One of the factors contributing to Argentina’s invasion of the Falklands in 1982 was the announced withdrawal of HMS Endurance, as this was thought to portend a lack of commitment to defending the islands. If withdrawing a ship armed with only two 20mm cannon can cause a war, what would surrendering loyal territory without a shot being fired do?)

Only defeated countries cede territory: thus France ceded Alsace-Lorraine after losing the Franco–Prussian War; and Austria-Hungary was split up and Germany ceded territory after they lost WW1; and Germany ceded still more territory after losing WW2; and the USSR ceded territory with the collapse of Soviet authority after losing the Cold War. Has Britain lost a war?

One can also reasonably wonder how long an independent England would remain intact. There are already calls from Cornwall,[7] Yorkshire,[8] Wessex[9] and now London[10] for devolution and/or independence. Scotland becoming independent will only encourage and strengthen the various separatist movements.[11]

Finally, there are constitutional consequences arising from the loss of Scotland: the Act of Union (Ireland) 1800 that united Ireland with Great Britain is the legal basis for Northern Ireland being part of the United Kingdom. However, while the Act of Union 1707 united the parliaments of England and Scotland, the Act of Union 1800 united the parliaments of Great Britain and Ireland; if Great Britain ceases to exist, the Act of Union 1800 ceases to have effect, and Northern Ireland would de jure, if not de facto, no longer be under British rule. That will matter little to English separatists, some of whom make common cause with Irish Republicans; but few patriots will easily see Northern Ireland lost, and the deaths of over 720 British servicemen and women wasted.

Of course the majority of ordinary English are as steadfast and loyal as ever; but it is disturbing that there are increasingly vocal separatist elements in England (as with Scotland, their vocalness is in inverse proportion to their numbers), and even amongst the political elite, e.g. journalist Simon Heffer and author Roger Scruton, and career politicians who would make short-term political advantage of gerrymandered constituency boundaries in England to ensure Conservative Party success to the long-term detriment of the nation.

It is as much to the advantage of the English as it is to the Scots and Welsh that our island remain united as one nation. It’s our island: fight for it.

Endnotes
[1] The corrupt SNP, as they showed with rigging the electorate as far as they could get away with for the 2014 Referendum, would do their utmost to contrive any constitution of an independent Scotland to ensure their nearly perpetual rule.
[2] The Irish Government interfered with Britain’s fight against IRA terrorism by dragging us to the ECHR in The Republic of Ireland v The United Kingdom: ECHR 18 Jan 1978. Despite us helping to bail the RoI out(*) in 2010, their government asked the ECHR to reopen the aforementioned case in 2014. Now the Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny backs charging UK for leaving the EU. (* ‘Bilateral loan to Ireland: legislation and credit facility agreement’ documents (HM Treasury); ‘Bilateral loan to Ireland’ collection (HM Treasury))
[3] The Lockheed C5M SuperGalaxy, of which the USAF has 52, can carry two 61-tonne Abrams main battle tanks, while the Boeing C17 Globemaster can carry one. Impressive—however, e.g., the US 1st Armored Division has 159 Abrams MBTs, along with 173 Bradley MICVs, 36 M109 155mm SPGs, 18 MLRSs, 30 Avenger air defence systems, plus 49 helicopters; an armoured division cannot feasibly be deployed by air—certainly not into contested airspace. (1st Armored Division Association. 1st Armored Division: WWII & Beyond: the History, the Stories, the People. Nashville: Turner, 2005. 19. Print.)
[4] Two days before the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and 39 days before Britain’s declaration of war on Germany, Kaiser Wilhelm’s health was being toasted by Royal Naval officers on his visit to the British fleet at Kiel.
[5] 134,202 for army alone: War Office. Statistics of the Military Effort of the British Empire During the Great War, 1914–1920. 1922. 363. Print.
[6] As a further example, there is that iconic model of Victorian engineering, the Forth Bridge: initiated by our North British Railway, who formed the Forth Bridge Railway Company to build it—this being composed of the North British Railway, along with England’s Midland Railway, North Eastern Railway and Great Northern Railway. Its design was by Yorkshireman John Fowler and Somersetian Benjamin Baker. Construction was headed by Englishmen Sir Thomas Tancred and Joseph Philips, Irishman Travers Falkiner and the Scottish Sir William Arrol; the actual construction work was carried out by mainly Scots and Irish.
Even our famous local regiments tended to have a smattering of ‘foreigners’—Scots in English regiments, English in Scottish, etc. E.g. the famous Welsh victory at Rorke’s Drift was not quite that Welsh: ‘Of the 122 soldiers of the 24th Regiment [later titled the ‘South Wales Borderers’] present at the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, 49 are known to have been of English nationality, 32 were Welsh, 16 were Irish, 1 was a Scot, and 3 were born overseas. The nationalities of the remaining 21 are unknown.’ (Holme, Norman. The Noble 24th: Biographical Records of the 24th Regiment in the Zulu War and the South African Campaigns. London: Savannah, 1999. 383. Print.)
That said, how ‘foreign’ were these various ‘foreigners’? How did Norman Holme define nationality? Were his ‘49 … of English nationality’ actually English, or merely born there of Welsh parents? Such questions, of human interest but minor consequence to Britons, assume otherwise unmerited importance when separatists deny the contributions of brother nations.
[7] ‘Mebyon Kernow … a progressive left-of-centre party in Cornwall … is leading the campaign for the creation of a National Assembly for Cornwall …’
Campaign for a Cornish Assembly
‘This week, a shadowy militant group calling itself the Cornish National Liberation Army allegedly threatened these two celebrity chefs in Cornwall, suggesting that their presence is not welcome.’ (Hicks, Nigel. “Cornish independence is back on the menu.” Daily Telegraph. 15 Jun. 2007. Web. 11 Dec. 2016.)
[8] ‘The Yorkshire Party is a progressive political party … We call for a Yorkshire Assembly (with real powers similar to Scotland) …’
‘The Yorkshire Devolution Movement … set up in 2012 to campaign for a directly elected regional parliament for Yorkshire.’
[9] ‘The Wessex Regionalists – the party for Wessex … are a progressive, party believing in social, economic and environmental justice. We campaign for a minimum of devolution for Wessex, with the same powers passed to a Wessex Assembly as those devolved to Scotland.’
[10] “Petition for London independence signed by thousands after Brexit vote.” BBC. 24 Jun. 2016. Web. 11 Dec. 2016.
[11] ‘[T]he Free North Campaign … want the North of England to become an independent socialist republic where economic and political power is decentralised to a regional, community, industry and workplace level.’ Note also how the assorted separatist movements inspire and promote each other.
Courtesy of Scotched Earth

 

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2 thoughts on “The English Case for Union

  1. Interesting and strong piece, David. The issue with these types of nationalists …. see a possible vulnerability in the union and exploit it. Can’t be trusted. Think de Valera. I’m just surprised the UK press don’t give Sturgeon a tougher time. Look at her party. Look at the Islamist links. Look at the Kremlin links. Salmond is practically a mouthpiece for Putin. Why are the public not seeing through the sham?

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