Since primary school, we have been taught about the “United” Kingdom – its parliament, monarchy, and local governments. The United Kingdom is a union of countries—England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The UK also refers to the sovereign state of that union. In theory, at least, it’s all pretty straightforward. But what if the UK no longer existed?
It might seem like an unlikely scenario, but in recent years there has been a surge of support for Scottish independence. The prospect of Wales and Northern Ireland leaving the United Kingdom has also been discussed. We take a look at some potential scenarios.
Scotland Leaves the Union
Scotland has been a part of the UK for almost three centuries. Before that, the two countries were separate sovereign states. In recent years, there has been significant support for Scottish independence. However, a poll from this year suggests the majority of Scots would now choose to break away from the UK.
If Scotland voted for independence, there would be a transitional period during which each country would negotiate the terms of their divorce. One possibility would be for Scotland to remain in the EU even if the rest of the UK left.
Wales Decides To Go Its Way
Even though Wales has been part of the United Kingdom for hundreds of years, there have been calls for it to become an independent country. The Welsh-language pressure group Cymdeithas yr Iaith (Welsh Language Society) has long fought for Wales to be independent.
If Wales voted to become independent, it would undoubtedly lead to a negotiation period between the two countries. It’s unlikely that Wales would want to be in a union with England, but it might still want to be part of a union with Scotland.
The UK Ceases To Exist
Let’s say that after a contentious few years of negotiations, Wales and Scotland decide to break away from the UK of their own accord. What then? Well, we’ve just seen that two countries can leave the UK. But what if all four countries leave in a fit of anger? What would happen, for instance, if England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland all decided to go their separate ways? Would they be able to form a union between them?
Would they form a new union? There’s no reason that each country couldn’t try to negotiate new trade deals with the rest of the world on their own. However, it would be much more difficult for them to strike deals between themselves. And if there were no longer a union, there would be no need for a parliament or a monarchy. One possibility would be for the UK to become the United Kingdoms.
Great Britain Remains but With a New Name
If all four countries did go their separate ways, perhaps the best thing for them to do would be to form a new union together. If a union between the four countries were to be re-established, the best name for it would probably be “Great Britain”.
If Great Britain were to be re-established, it would be necessary to decide which capital city would host the joint governmental body. London would be the obvious choice, but perhaps the other countries want to distance themselves from the capital. Perhaps Edinburgh, Cardiff, or Belfast would be a better fit.
Northern Ireland leaves the UK.
While Wales and Scotland are relatively close to England, Northern Ireland is farther away. There’s also a language difference. Northern Ireland is predominantly English-speaking (although there are several other languages spoken there as well), while the other countries are predominantly Scottish or Welsh-speaking.
There have been several attempts to form a separate independent country in Northern Ireland over the past few decades. Northern Ireland has been part of the UK for hundreds of years, but there has been talking of it separating from the rest of the country for almost as long. And, of course, there’s a long and troubled history between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
The Pros of a UK Collapse
So what if the UK ceased to exist? Well, we can gain plenty of positives from such an event. First, it might encourage the English to take more pride in their country. It could help us to learn more about our history and culture.
It could also encourage the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish to do the same, allowing them to grow closer and further away from England. And, of course, there would be no need for all the bureaucracy associated with the government, like Brexit negotiations or discussions about a new Scottish independence referendum.
The Cons of a UK Collapse
Britain’s leaving the EU will weaken the UK and the EU. It will also weaken other economies closely aligned with the UK and the EU, such as Canada and the United States. A UK collapse could also trigger a global recession by triggering a stock market crash and reducing investment in risky assets.
A weaker UK and EU would also have fewer resources and lower moral authority to lead the fight against global warming, pandemics, and other threats that require international collaboration.
Northern Ireland Joins the Republic of Ireland
Let’s take it a step further. What if Northern Ireland voted to leave the UK and re-join the Republic of Ireland? Well, that’s certainly a possibility. Earlier this year, a poll suggests that a majority in Northern Ireland favour reunification with the Republic of Ireland. Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have been linked in the past.
The two countries have been a part of the same political entity for most of their history. To re-unite, all that would be necessary would be for a referendum in Northern Ireland in which a majority would vote to leave the UK.
Scotland Becomes an Independent Nation
In recent years, there’s been a lot of talk of Scottish independence. There are many factors to consider if we imagine the UK disappearing. Of course, one of the first things we’d have to look at is what sort of relationship Scotland would have with England.
However, polling recently suggested that most Scottish people don’t want a second independence referendum. Scotland is currently part of the UK through the Scotland Act of 1998, a piece of legislation that Scottish MPs can change and revise. It makes it much more feasible for Scotland to remain part of the UK and for the UK to disappear.
Wales Becomes the Republic of Wales
What would Wales do if the UK disappeared? Wales is a country full of distinct customs and traditions and one of the UK’s oldest parts. Wales already has a government, a flag, and a national day – it just doesn’t have complete independence. For many, the UK disappearing would be the next logical step.
So it’s perhaps not surprising that some people in Wales feel the larger English population is swallowing up their distinct culture. Independence would mean that Welsh people would have their passports and control over their laws.
England Declares War on the World
You’d imagine that if the UK disappeared, England would be a bit upset. All the trouble and effort it took to unite Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and then it gets dissolved just like that? It would be understandable if England decided to get its revenge by declaring war on the world.
However, while it’s true that England gets a bit forgotten when the UK is mentioned, there’s very little support for a country that is just “England”. Partly this is because of the large immigrant population in England. Most people from ethnic minorities support a “United Kingdom” as their preferred way of describing the nation – even more than the English do themselves.
England Still Exists, but It’s Smaller
What would happen to the remaining parts of the UK after Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Isle of Man decided to go alone? Well, England would likely get smaller – the only thing is we’re not sure how much more minor.
For many, it would be almost unthinkable for the UK to disappear and for England to remain. It is because England has such a solid and recognizable identity. It’s also because England makes up 84% of the UK’s population and accounts for 83% of its gross domestic product. England would also keep a seat at the UN Security Council and the UN Human Rights Council.
The EU Collapses Too
What would happen to the UK if it disappeared? Brexit made the UK’s relationship with the EU the focus of many people’s attention. So it’s possible that if the UK disappeared, the EU would collapse too. It’s also the second-largest EU economy after Germany. So, the EU would likely become less powerful and less influential without the UK. It is especially true because the UK is blocking the EU’s plans to create a joint budget.
For example, the European Central Bank is in charge of regulating all EU banks. The European Banking Authority is in charge of regulating all EU banks. And the European Securities and Markets Authority is in charge of all EU financial markets. So if the UK disappeared, these three bodies would no longer have jurisdiction over British banks and financial markets.
What’s Ahead for the UK and EU
The UK and EU will have to negotiate an exit deal, which could take many years. The two sides will probably end up with a divorce settlement of several billion euros but no trade deal. The EU will want to discourage other members from leaving the bloc. Britain will be in no position to negotiate a trade deal for years.
It will have to focus on its economy as it adjusts to life outside the EU. The EU will effectively have four years to prepare for the British exit. The Article 50 exit clause requires the EU to negotiate an exit deal within two years of a member state’s request to leave.
Since the referendum, UK and EU officials have been negotiating what will happen in a no-deal Brexit. The withdrawal and trade deals will be part of one package if a deal is reached. If there is no deal, they will be separate.
What Happens to the Rest of Europe?
For the rest of the EU, Brexit will have several implications: – It will lose the UK’s second-largest economy, which has been its closest ally in foreign and security policy.
1. It will lose its second-largest net contributor to the EU budget. Britain is the EU’s third-largest economy and has been one of the two most significant net contributors to the EU budget.
2. It will lose its strongest advocate for free trade and against protectionism. The EU will become a smaller, poorer, and more protectionist bloc.
3. It will lose its main counterweight to the rise of China, the United States, and other powers.
European Union Without the UK: What Will Change?
If the UK leaves the EU, the bloc’s geopolitical standing and economic prosperity will suffer. Geopolitically, the EU will become less potent. It will lose its second-largest economy, one of its two most significant military powers, and its leading advocate for free trade.
The UK is the EU’s third-largest economy and has been one of its two most significant net contributors. The EU will become less competitive and less attractive to investors. The loss of the UK as a trading partner will significantly impact European growth. The UK is the EU’s largest single trading partner.
The Eurozone Will Shrink and Become Weaker
The Eurozone will become smaller and weaker without the UK. The UK is the EU’s second-largest economy and one of its two most significant net contributors to EU budgets. When the UK leaves the EU, the EU will lose its second-largest economy, its second-largest net contributor, and one of its strongest advocates for free trade. The EU will become a smaller and poorer bloc.
Three Eurozone countries need assistance after the financial crisis: Greece, Ireland, and Portugal. The UK has played a vital role in keeping other EU members from assisting these three countries, which would have significantly expanded the size of the bailout fund. Once the UK leaves the EU, people will probably offer those three countries assistance. Doing so would significantly increase the size of the bailout fund, likely triggering a new financial crisis in the Eurozone.
Europe’s Geopolitical Position Will Weaken
The UK has been one of Europe’s most influential military powers. It has been a leading proponent of EU military cooperation and has been the primary link to American security policy. For example, the UK has played a significant role in negotiating the EU-US defence partnership and the post-Brexit future of the European Defence Union.
The UK has also been a critical military partner for Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and other non-EU members. The bloc’s geopolitical position will weaken when the UK leaves the EU. The EU will lose its second-largest military power and its most important military ally. The UK has also been critical in managing Russian aggression in Eastern Europe.
British companies will lose their unfettered access to EU markets and their right to do business in the other 27 EU countries. Companies must negotiate new agreements with the EU, their governments, and local authorities; they will have to prove they are not affiliated with the UK government.
They will probably face higher taxes, stricter regulation, lower government subsidies, and more stringent standards. British citizens living in the other 27 EU countries will have reduced rights and fewer protections. Their governments will have more power to expel them, deny them social services and discriminate against them in hiring and promotion. Exporters and importers will have to adjust to new customs procedures and tariffs.
The UK may be an old country, but it’s no dying nation. There are many arguments as to why the UK will survive and thrive as a nation, but there are just as many reasons why it may not. But if it did collapse, there are ways that each country could thrive on its own. And while the thought of such a collapse may be terrifying, it may also be advantageous to consider what would come next.