BY EFFIE DEANS
What is the greatest strategic threat facing the UK? Is it the next letter of the Greek alphabet Π [Pi] giving us a new more deadly variant of Covid? Well assuming that Π doesn’t offend the Chinese masters of the World Health Organisation like Ξ [Xi] did, it would still be no threat to the UK. An illness would have to be very deadly indeed before it led to the destruction of a country.
If the Russians invade Ukraine or even if they decided to annex the Baltic States and reabsorb Poland into the Russian Empire, it is still unlikely that the UK will go to war with Russia. If NATO has a red line, it is not in Eastern Europe and indeed it may not be anywhere.
The Western Media has created armed forces that cannot fight wars and cannot win peace. We are unwilling to accept more than tiny levels of dead and wounded on both our own side and on the side of the enemy. This is why we were defeated both in Iraq and Afghanistan. How on earth could NATO take on Russia?
Putin would not care if he lost ten thousand troops taking back the former Soviet Union and his people would accept it without much of a murmur. He would not care if he killed Western civilians or bombed our cities flat. All NATO can offer in defence is technology. So, we will do nothing if either Russia or China decides to use serious military force, because the only alternative is to use everything, i.e., nuclear weapons. We are not going to blow up the whole world over Ukraine, nor indeed anywhere much east of the Elbe.
But this means that the Russians are no threat to the UK. We will do nothing and they may even be no more threat to Ukraine if Putin decides he has already won merely by parking his tanks on the border and demonstrating the impotence of NATO.
The EU is no threat to the UK, because we have already demonstrated that we don’t require it. If Britain can get through the worst pandemic in 100 years, then we can weather whatever Mr Macron wants to throw at us. The EU will merely damage its own tourist industry by trying to make it difficult for Brits. Its attempt to punish Britain has merely meant that we have pivoted away from Europe towards the rest of the world, which will long term be beneficial to us rather than to the EU.
The greatest threat to the territorial integrity of the UK comes from the EU’s semi-annexation of Northern Ireland which has become a sort of Danzig not so much run by the League of Nations as by Brussels. But Ireland’s manoeuvring its metaphorical tanks (it doesn’t have any actual ones) onto the Northern Ireland border always comes up against the problem that the orange part of its flag does not wish to be with the green part and requires a white peace wall to keep it apart.
Even if Ireland could afford to absorb Northern Ireland, which it could only do if the EU decided to fund it, there would still be around half of the population who have been resisting incorporation into a united Ireland since the nineteenth century. These people are not going to go away unless Ireland uses Serbian methods and their British identity is not going to change either if it hasn’t done so in more than one hundred years.
The uneasy peace in Northern Ireland will not change until Scottish independence destroys the UK and then like the Former Yugoslavia partition continues further until even Cornwall, Mercia and the Isle of Anglesey gain their independence.
It is for this reason that Irish nationalists pin their hopes on Scotland. With the destruction of the UK there would be no reason for English people to subsidise Northern Ireland and perhaps not even Wales. The damage would be no worse if Wales and Northern Ireland were jettisoned after Scotland and at least there would be no more nonsense about a country made up of countries with devolved parliaments.
Northern Ireland would then be someone else’s problem. Wales would have to accept either that it was part of greater England, which it has in reality been since the Middle Ages, or it would have to go its own way. I cannot imagine English people having much patience with Welsh nationalism if Scotland departed.
Just as Ireland’s problem is that a large number of people in Northern Ireland have a different identity, so too the structural problem in the UK is the lack of a common identity. Unusually in Europe people in Britain have two national identities. French citizens are French, without subnational national identities. The idea that we can have both Scottish and British national identities only exists in Europe where there are strong separatist political forces.
Scottish nationalists routinely reject the identity that corresponds to their citizenship, but it is becoming more common even in England for people to reject what unites the UK. The bond that holds us together is financial.
Neither Scotland, nor Wales, nor Northern Ireland could leave the UK without losing the large sums they get from the Treasury and it is hard to imagine how they could do so without suffering a huge reduction in living standards. But English people have come to resent the subsidy which they see as English, when it is used by devolved parliaments to undermine the unity, even the coherence of the state.
While the threat from subnational nationalism in the UK is the greatest threat we face, far greater than any other, indeed greater than any we have faced in our history, in the short term it has rather lessened. Scotland is divided evenly between those Scots who are content to remain in the UK and those who are not.
Those Scots who voted to stay would be justly furious if an independent Scotland made their standard of living decline and even the Scottish nationalists might regret and blame an SNP that made them poorer. An overwhelming majority might be willing to endure privation for the sake of a new Scotland, but Scottish nationalists are not a majority at all.
Scotland is as divided as Northern Ireland in our aims for the future and the part that wants to remain British would only be content in an independent Scotland if financially, we would be as well off as now.
The SNP would do well to focus on improving the reality of the financial case for independence rather than continually trying base its argument on the economic ignorance of its own supporters. Scots will only ever vote for a separate Scotland it really would be economically no worse off than now.
The Pro UK argument can legitimately reflect that British history has been poor at creating a common identity and that this is its greatest failing. But there is no point regretting where we are now. The key is to create a UK where most people are content to have a shared British identity alongside their other identities.
I am neither a muscular unionist nor indeed a unionist. Muscular Christianity brings with it absurd images of cold showers and stretches for Jesus. The UK is not a union like the European Union, it is the result of a union. It is a single unitary nation state that for historical reasons has parts that are also called countries.
Devolution is here to stay. There is no majority to get rid of it. There is nothing even close to a majority. But devolution is directly responsible for the rise of nationalism in the UK to the extent that we are continually threatened by an SNP that wishes to destroy our country.
It is necessary to work out a way in which the UK can both be a single sovereign nation state and have devolved powers equally so that every British citizen has the same amount. Some of us have votes for two parliaments, some of us only one. That is unfair.
It must be pointed out to Scottish nationalists, that fiscal transfers depend on a shared national identity. An independent Scotland would not expect fiscal transfers between itself and people who were not Scottish. Well, if you think you have nothing in common with other British people then your acceptance of Treasury finance amounts to theft.
If the SNP were honest, it would refuse all British money and raise all its revenue in Scotland alone before asking for another independence referendum. If Scotland can afford independence there should be no problem, if it can’t why have a referendum on it. If you really think that you have no identity in common with other British citizens, why do you expect them to give you money any more than you expect it from the French.
The excellent Effie Deans writes at Lily of St. Leonard’s here.