The Divided Kingdom: how Brexit risks to break up the UK


This is the second of our series of four articles we're dedicating to the consequences of Brexit. Brexit will impact philanthropy, the European integration process, and the lives of hundreds of millions of people. This is why we decided to publish these articles on Kinder World. You can read the first article here

Perhaps the tragic irony of Brexit is its uncanny ability to undermine democratic institutions in the name of democracy. ‘The Will of the People’ has become an unquestionable argument, despite the fact that only a quarter of the population actually voted for leave.

Never mind that the Leave campaign broke election rules and outright lied to the electorate. Never mind that the ‘Leave’ option in 2016 did not outline any coherent plan of what Brexit actually meant, or that the nascent Brexit party lacked even a basic manifesto three years later. Anyone that questions the validity, feasibility, and morality of a no-deal exit with the EU on the basis of an advisory referendum risks being labelled a ‘traitor’ or an ‘enemy of the people’ by its proponents. Brexit, in one single vote, undermined the entire idea of representative democracy by tying the course of the entire country to one majoritarian vote.

Democracy comes under strain when its basic institutions are routinely abused and its inherent nature is mistrusted and despised by the people it intends to serve. In a decaying democracy, the trusted institutions of the state become despised, and record-breaking constitutional crises become commonplace. For example, through unprecedented government defeatsparliamentary deadlock, and the breaking of 400-year-old precedents.

The possibility of the Prime Minister temporarily closing (or ‘proroguing’) parliament sets a dangerous precedent; using archaic monarchical prerogatives that should stay in the past. To an extent, the UK itself is now a decaying democracy, still trying to emerge from the shadow of a dead empire and caught between the polarizing forces of nativist populism and transnational liberalism that have come to define the modern age. It is an understated irony that a withdrawal from the EU in the name of British sovereignty will likely cause the end of Britain as a coherent political unit. Indeed, a recent poll found that 63 percent of Conservative party members would see Brexit through even if it meant the break-up of the UK.

In the current trajectory, Scottish independence is a question of when, rather than if. Irish unification may become the only way to avoid a return to the ‘troubles’ of the 1970s, and Wales would likely look on in envy at both. England would eventually be left alone for the first time in seven centuries, a nativist island drowning in a sea of its own irrelevance.

About the author: Samuel John recently graduated with an MSc in international development studies. Formerly a research intern with Kinder, he is now working as an English teacher in Japan; and continues to write the occasional article for Kinder World

Credit header image: Pixabay 

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