One of the constants in politics – more so from the Left – is how activists insist on telling voters that various events are “inevitable”. Somehow I’ve missed the inevitable triumph of communism. the inevitable collapse of capitalism and the inevitable collapse of civilisation due to warming/overpopulation/no oil ( take your pick ) .
The break up the UK has also been declared “inevitable” a meme pushed by assorted nationalists and the usual suspects on the Left and yet the mangy old mongrel is still there. Indeed as we have seen NI isn’t planning to leave just , yet despite demographic shifts and Scotland is unlikely to be having an IndyRef2 any time soon, mostly because there is no overwhelming desire from the electorate to have one.
Wales as long as the money flows just keeps its head down and gets on with life. Stepping back it seems the ties that bind are both stronger and deeper than separatists would have us believe. Those ties have two big cords; a shared cultural background and a shared economy.
Culturally we speak the same language, watch the same TV, support the same pool of football teams, we have family spread all over these islands. This places the onus on the separatist parties to create differences, often where none exist. Whether this works with voters is a moot point but It keeps the activists happy .
However several hundred years of living together despite the family squabbles do mean most British people have very similar views on life. There is a national outlook we don’t really share with many other places and which sits comfortably at the back of our minds,
It’s the finances which prove the strongest cord. None of the Celtic nations pay their way ( though that is also true of several English regions ). But if cut loose all would be faced with a not inconsequential hit on living standards and trade. The direct subsidy from the UK exchequer is well north of £50bn per annum for the 3 regional parliaments and that’s before you take in national government jobs
HMRC Cumbernauld or DVLA Swansea would quickly move to England and direct trade. Unsurprisingly this is an area the nationalists don’t want to discuss or try to whip up a sugar daddy like the EU to pay the bills. Personally I have yet to see a convincing case that life would be financially better outside the Union for any of the three nations.
On the other hand there is nothing “inevitable” about the Union staying together, ironically the best hope for nationalists may be the English as the weakest link. A stretched exchequer, a tetchy bunch of neighbours and the sheer hassle of tiptoeing round sensitivities – what exactly is in it for them?
History, place in the world and better to keep your friends close, but at present not much financially. At some point politicians are going to need to look at the current arrangement and improve it to keep a balance across the islands. Meanwhile the old dog still seems fit and well and plods on.