Monday, 8 July 2019
In the past few days, several senior Conservatives, including Jeremy Hunt, have warned that leaving the EU without a deal would pose a major threat to The Union, with Nicola Sturgeon already ploughing ahead with plans for a second referendum on Scottish independence. David Lammy tweeted out – in a break from his usually ceaseless anti-white tirade – “I don't remember seeing the break up of the United Kingdom on the ballot paper in 2016”. Meanwhile, Nigel Farage has suggested that while regrettable, the break-up of the United Kingdom would be a price worth paying to deliver Brexit.
From whence has come this shirt-rending angst over the precious union? Teflon Theresa, it would seem, in her latest attempt at leaving office without her only ‘legacy’ being that she could not deliver what the British people demanded. British, did I say? I no longer feel British, but I feel - more fiercely than ever - English to the core and it is the English who have the axe to grind with the EU. May has pledged (though it is hardly in her gift) to keep the United Kingdom together. Boris Johnson has gone so far as to state that preservation of this uneasy union is more important than leaving the EU. I beg to differ.
May’s deputy, David Lidington has gone on record to talk about English indifference to the union, as reported in The Scotsman newspaper. But in doing so and just like all the others he does not, or rather refuses to, grasp the reasons why. The Union? Yes, I – we – can see it as a strength and yes, as an island it is preferable not to allow foreign powers to have a border within our shores, but I’m not sure that indifference is the right word; frustration might be closer. What we are certainly not indifferent to is the way in which being English has virtually become a punishable offence. If, as many believe, Scotland should be governed by the Scottish, then why should governance of England not be exclusively the preserve of the English?
Recognising that London is no longer an English city, as John Cleese so rightly remarked, can you imagine the backlash if we were to hold an annual English Pride celebration? Even better, a whole English Pride month; a month in which we could come out of the closet and wear St George emblems and declare ourselves openly English without fear of censure. Well of course it won’t happen; as with the Conservatives, Englishness has been sacrificed on the altar of precarious union and must now only be practised behind closed doors.
Will Boris bring back English pride? Will he strengthen or – as is more likely – widen the divides that exist inter and intra-nation? Whether or not we leave the EU and whether or not the countries of the former United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland go on to peacefully coexist as independents or maintain close union is, at the moment, simply not germane to the pressing urgency of actually delivering Brexit. Indifferent to Scottish independence? If I’m honest I’m just not that bothered.