The broken kingdom
Almost five years ago, the British people voted by a – narrow – majority in favor of withdrawal from the European Union. Years of negotiations with the other Member States followed until the official departure on 1er last january. Many trade issues remain to be resolved with the continent. But, at least, the political chapter of Brexit could seem closed. In reality, it is not. Except this time around, the problem lies within the borders of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland – according to its official name.
The general elections to be held in Scotland and Wales on Thursday risk exposing a rift between England and the rest of the kingdom very clearly with the push of a secessionist vote. Likewise, recent tensions in Ulster have highlighted the negative consequences of Brexit on civil peace across the Irish Sea. The English nationalism which motivated the exit of the European Union leads to this paradoxical result of weakening the union of the kingdom of Elizabeth II.
In fact, the centrifugal forces within the UK began to emerge long before there was any talk of Brexit. This had led, in 1998, to a decentralization of institutions with the establishment of local governments and parliaments in Scotland and Wales. Thus a balance of power was established between different levels – local, national and European -, which Brexit came to shake up, fueling the fear of unchallenged English domination. The fabric of membership is fragile. It can tear easily.