The result on the 18th September may cause the dissolution of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. This Union is in fact made up of three different uniting acts, the evolution of which is worth examining.
The following 2 articles from the Act of Union 1707 clearly show that the primary Union was between the Kingdom of England ‘incorporating Wales’ and the Kingdom of Scotland. Together they formed the so-called ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain’.
That The Two Kingdoms of England and Scotland shall upon the first Day of May which shall be in the Year one thousand seven hundred and seven, and for ever after, be united into one Kingdom by the name of Great Britain.
That the United Kingdom of Great Britain be represented by one and the same Parliament, to be stiled, ‘The Parliament of Great Britain’.
It was this United Kingdom of Great Britain that in 1801 entered into a union with the Kingdom of Ireland. The rump of which after 1922 is the ‘province’ of Northern Ireland. This was not part of the primary Union but was a secondary Union and as such did not interfere with the primary Union.
However for Scotland to become independent the Act of Union 1707 would have to be repealed, thus dissolving the ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain’.
It may be inconvenient for many British politicians to accept this, but instead of continuing as ‘rest of the United Kingdom’ (rUK), there could be numerous other possibilities if Scotland does become independent.
Legal and constitutional logic dictates that unless there is ‘further constitutional legalisation’, the break-up of the UK will lead to the re-emergence of the ‘Kingdom of England’ ‘incorporating Wales’ or an independent Wales. The Union with Northern Ireland would also lapse as Northern Ireland would no longer have a union with an existing entity. Perhaps this could lead to calls for a reunion with the Irish Republic.
It is time to recognise that the Union must be quickly re-balanced, with a new constitutional structure that answers the English Question. This could only be done with a democratically elected English First Minister and English government. This re-balancing would have the effect of protecting the newfound political structures in Wales and Northern Ireland and it would starve oxygen from the SNP’s calls for independence.
Instead of waiting to see what the outcome of the Scottish referendum is, we must begin to tackle the constitutional consequences. Now is the time for our political leaders to stand up and be counted. Unfortunately if more do not join them, it may not be chants of ‘long live the rUK’ but rather the mournful death knell for the former UK (fUK).
The CEP has prepared this chart to explain as simply as possible the constitutional position (click here to expand)
Eddie Bone is Chairman of the Campaign for an English Parliament