“Take back control” was the slogan used in the UK’s 2016 EU referendum. However, couldn’t a similar slogan be used by pro-independence movements in Scotland and Northern Ireland about the United Kingdom itself? Should “control” automatically go back to Westminster? What about Holyrood and Stormont?
Brexit has effectively delivered a border down the Irish sea. In order to respect both the integrity of the EU Single Market and the Good Friday Agreement, Brexit negotiators agreed to the Northern Ireland Protocol. Instead of checking goods at the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, checks are now required for goods sent between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
These new checks have led to bottlenecks in the supply of food and medicines since the Protocol came into force. Adding to the controversy has been the bungled EU announcement (made without first consulting with the Irish government) that it would introduce export controls for the COVID-19 vaccine at the Irish border. Tempers are high and Ireland has called for the rhetoric to be “dialed down” and a more pragmatic approach to be taken. Meanwhile, polls now show more than half of the population of Northern Ireland would like a referendum on a united Ireland within the next five years.
Could there also be a second Scottish independence referendum? Scotland voted against independence back in 2014. However, that was two years before the Brexit referendum, in which the Scots, unlike the British, voted against Brexit by a majority. The fact that the United Kingdom left the EU against the will of Scotland has given the independence movement a boost. Since Brexit, support for independence has skyrocketed in surveys and has now risen to 52%.
It is very possible that the Scottish National Party (SNP) will win a clear majority in the Scottish Parliament elections this year. Should that happen, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced she will demand a second independence referendum. It is questionable whether this will happen, though, given British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has already ruled out a second referendum. Observers fear scenes like those in Catalonia could occur if the referendum were to be held against the will of London. In addition, the latest polls have seen a decline in support for independence.
Will Brexit break up the United Kingdom? Has leaving the EU restored UK sovereignty? How will Brexit affect Northern Ireland and Scotland? Will there be independence referendums in both countries? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!