The uncertainty of Brexit is affecting all of the British Isles and there seems to be no way out for the regions who voted majority to remain. But what if there was an alternative in the form of a Celtic federation? Ken Sweeney is interested in the prospect and thinks a discussion on the subject should begin.
There never seems to be a day gone by that we don’t hear about that referendum from June 2016. And while this week we see the latest poor sucker in the form of Dominic Raab trying to be the spokesperson for the British Government in what is now the most unsolvable issue in the recent history of European politics, the rest of those affected, mainly the Scots, Welsh and Irish, yet again wait and see what implications a primarily English decision is going to have on their daily lives. And make no mistake, the outside impact of Brexit will hit these regions the hardest. France, the Netherlands and Belgium will feel a negative kick in the short- to mid-term on their respective economies, but the British regions of Scotland and Northern Ireland, both of whom voted a majority in favour of EU membership, along with Wales and the Republic of Ireland will be counting the cost of Brexit for decades to come.
Waking up to Brexit
It is fair to say at this point that the Irish government has been busy getting ready for Brexit, hard or soft, since 2015 when the revenue commission drew contingency plans in the case of a leave outcome and not a week has passed when something in relation to Brexit hasn’t emerged from Dublin. And in Scotland the SNP, to a lesser extent, has also been planning for the worst, with the prospect of another independence referendum still being a strong possibility in the next five or so years. We even have members of the more moderate elements of the Unionist community in Northern Ireland speak of a border poll and advise the public to be prepared for the possibility of one occurring soon. And while there was a majority vote for Brexit in Wales, it has to be taken into account that the spill over from England was a factor in the result locally, but if any region seems to be contemplating a shift in the support for Brexit then it seems like the land of the dragon is looking that way.
When you count up all those in favour remaining across the regions, it looks pretty substantial, but not so influential nonetheless. Because despite certain levels of political devolution, the British regions do not posses the power to simply say no to Westminster and do their own thing, no matter how sensible it may seem. However, in the mid-term, I can see no reason why the momentum for a break up of the the United Kingdom will cease. If Britain should lose Scotland and Northern Ireland to an independence referendum or a border poll, then the demise of the union is the result.
We do seem focused on this concept that Northern Ireland must be a part of the Republic of Ireland and there is certainly just cause for it, but is the union of the island of Ireland the only outcome for Northern Ireland should the Brexit issues force the region to break away from the UK in some form?
An alternative response to Brexit
What if there was a viable alternative that would seek to keep a union, but not a British one? What is the case for Federal Celtic union? A union that would consist of Northern Ireland and Scotland, with an option for Wales to join at the point of conception. There could even be the element of bringing in the Republic of Ireland with the prospects of Dublin being the capital as a incentive. In many ways, it would solve the issue of how to integrate Northern Ireland and completely eliminate the most complicated issue in the Brexit negotiations – the Irish border. There would still be a border between Scotland and Wales but we would be looking at border without the politics of the past conflicts on the island of Ireland.
The upsides are that England effectively gets what it wants – to leave the EU while Scotland and Northern Ireland get to stay, along with Wales, should it decide to do so. If the Welsh referendum said no to the Celtic federation, then it has the option to follow England out and stay part of the original union.
Another advantage of bringing Ireland into the federation would be that the former British regions could bypass usual membership protocol and join the EU immediately as part of the Irish membership which would be expanded and modified. Dublin has already got this modification should Northern Ireland become part of the Republic of Ireland, so there may be room for more.
But while I recognise that this simplified suggestion here would obviously require a lot more detailed discussion, the undeniable fact is that somewhere down the line in the next few decades, the United Kingdom will look different on the map. Scottish independence is inevitable and if a hard Brexit happens, then it may be sooner rather than later. Northern Ireland is also facing a union with the Republic in our lifetime and while I would be against the prospect of it happening as a result of Brexit, I would be interested in the proposal of a federation, with Stormont, Leinster House, the Senedd and Hollyrood all having equal say in an exciting union that could be a model template for larger European integration.