Killing two political birds with one stone: Resolving the UK’s unfinished devolution and the Irish border questions (Robert Henderson)


Robert Henderson

Brexit provides a wonderful opportunity to deal simultaneously with two major political difficulties. These are the unbalanced devolution arrangements in the UK and what is to be done about the

Relationship between the Republic of Ireland (RoI) and the UK after Brexit. Both problems could be solved by the RoI leaving the EU at the same time as the UK and forming a federation with the UK.

The unfinished business of UK devolution

Three of the four home countries – Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – have each been granted elected assemblies or parliaments . From these are formed devolved governments which administer increasingly significant powers such as the control of policing, education and the NHS. The personnel of the devolved governments and assemblies/parliaments have by their words and actions made it clear that do not think of the national interest of the UK but of what is best for their particular home country.

The fourth home country England has neither an assembly nor a government and consequently no body of politicians to speak for England and to look after her interests. A procedure to have only MPs sitting for English seats voting on English only legislation (English votes for English laws or EVEL for short) began a trial in 2015, but it has few teeth because it is difficult to disentangle what is English only legislation, not least because MPs for seats outside of England argue that any Bill dealing solely with English matters has financial implications for the rest of the UK and , consequently, is not an England only Bill. Nor does EVEL allow English MPs to initiate English only legislation. Most importantly England , unlike Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, is left without any national political representatives to concentrate on purely English domestic matters.

The House of Lords review of its first year in operation makes EVEL’s limitations clear:

The EVEL procedures introduced by the Government address, to some extent, the West Lothian Question. They provide a double-veto, meaning that legislation or provisions in bills affecting only England (or in some cases, England and Wales, or England and Wales and Northern Ireland), can only be passed by the House of Commons with the support of both a majority of MPs overall, and of MPs from the nations directly affected by the legislation.

Yet English MPs’ ability to enact and amend legislation does not mirror their capacity, under EVEL, to resist legislative changes. The capacity of English MPs to pursue a distinct legislative agenda for England in respect of matters that are devolved elsewhere does not equate to the broader capacity of devolved legislatures to pursue a distinct agenda on matters that are devolved to them

Not content with denying England a parliament and government of her own the UK government has made strenuous efforts to Balkanise England by forcing elected mayors on cities and the devolution of considerable powers to local authority areas built around cities with Manchester in the vanguard of this development. The ostensible idea of this Balkanisation is to pretend that an English parliament and government is not necessary because devolution is being delivered on a regional basis to England: its covert intention is to ensure that England cannot act as a political entity in its own right and have its representatives asking awkward questions such as why are Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland receiving so much more per capita from the Treasury each year than England receives.( The latest figures are: Scotland £10,536 per person, Northern Ireland, £10,983 per person, Wales £9,996 per person, England £8,816 per person).

To balance the devolution settlement in the UK England needs a parliament and a government, not just to give her parity with the other home countries, but to prevent the Balkanisation of England. This could be done simply and without great expense by returning the Westminster Parliament to what it was originally, the English Parliament. It could also function as the federal Parliament when that was required to convene . Hence, no new parliament building would be required. Members of the Federal Parliament would be the elected representatives of the devolved assemblies of the four Home Countries and what is now the RoI.

The Republic of Ireland

Should the RoI decide to remain as a member of the EU she risks a hard border this would potentially mean an end to the free movement between the UK and the RoI and the RoI having to deal with EU imposed tariffs on imports from the UK and UK reciprocal tariffs on goods exported by the RoI to the UK. It is important to understand that a “hard” border would not just be that between the RoI and Northern Ireland, but between the RoI and the whole of the UK.

The land border between the RoI and Northern Ireland creates two potential dangers for the UK. It could operate as a back door for illegal immigrants to enter the UK and promote the smuggling of goods. At present the UK government is attempting to foist onto the British public a nonsense which says that there will be no need of a “hard” border between the RoI and Northern Ireland to prevent illegal immigration. Two lines of argument are employed to justify this. First, that it can be controlled by greater technological surveillance and stricter checks on employers, foreign benefit claimants and landlords. Second, it is claimed that the fact that the UK is no longer an EU member will mean that the UK will be much less attractive to people in the EU as a place to migrate to because they will not be able to get jobs or benefits.

This shows either a shocking naivety or cynicism of a high order. The idea that people would not be able to gain employment simply because they are EU citizens ignores the fact that many illegal migrants from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) already do this. Moreover, even immigrants here legally have an incentive to work in the black market because they can avoid tax.

As for not paying benefits, how would the authorities distinguish between the millions from the EU already in the UK who are almost certain to have the right to remain, and any new EU migrants? It would be nigh on impossible. It is remarkably easy to get a National Insurance number issued in the UK and even if employers had stricter duties placed upon them not to employ EU citizens without a work permit or visa, there are plenty of employers who would be willing to employ those they knew were illegal because they are cheaper and more easily controlled and sacked than British workers or theillegal employer (this is a common thing with gangmasters) is an immigrant and makes a point of only employing other immigrants from his or her own country. Once employed and with a National Insurance number they could claim in work benefits readily enough and probably out of work benefits too because there is not the massive resources of manpower which would be required to do the necessary checks on whether they were eligible.

Whatever is said now there could not in practice be an open border with the UK. Even if in the immediate post-Brexit period there continued the present agreement between the UK and the RoI of free movement, and this is what Theresa May is proposing, huge numbers of immigrants to the UK coming via the the RoI would create uproar amongst a British public who felt cheated that a hard border between the RoI and Northern Ireland would have to be created.

But even without the migrant question the idea that no “hard” border will be necessary could be sunk if the EU or the UK imposes tariffs or quotas on goods. The ex-EU Commissioner Peter Sutherland has pointed this out forcefully:

“We have been told by a number of Conservative Party spokespeople that Britain will leave the common customs area of the EU.

“If this is true, the customs union, which relates to sharing a common external tariff of the EU, will have to be maintained by all other EU countries with the UK following its withdrawal. Goods will have to be checked at borders.”

While the RoI Foreign Secretary Charlie Flanagan has said a hard Brexit would be unworkable for Ireland.

The RoI would have the worry that if they remained in the EU they could find themselves suddenly saddled with tariffs. If a genuine Brexit is achieved by the UK then it is possible that either the EU will place tariffs or quotas on UK goods and the UK responds in kind or that this will happen because no agreement can be reached and the UK leaves the EU and trades under WTO rules. This would be more than an inconvenience for the RoI because she has very substantial economic ties to the UK.

All these difficulties with devolution and the RoI border would dissolve with the creation of a truly federal state comprised of England, Scotland, Wales Northern Ireland and what is now the RoI. Such a federation would need to have full home rule. The issues which would be left to the federal level would be important but few: defence, foreign affairs, control of coastal waters, customs, management of the currency and immigration. This would not mean that the policy areas reserved to the constituent countries’ parliaments would not be brought to the federal level without the agreement of the constituent countries. Large infrastructure projects such as roads and railways covering two or more devolved jurisdictions would be a good example of the type of issue which might be dealt with at the federal level.

Such a federation would have a good start for England, Scotland, Wales are all undisputed territories with no border disputes or awkward enclaves stuck in the middle of another nation’s territory. The Irish situation is more complicated, but if the entirety of Ireland was in the new federation that would probably take much of the sting which is left out of the sectarian divide . Moreover, the RoI and Northern Ireland would still each have a separate identity and a devolved political class and institutions directly responsible to their respective populations. One of the reasons for the great stability of Great Britain (that is, England, Scotland and Wales) over the centuries is the fact that each nation had its own territory. That would continue under the federation I propose.

Why would the RoI join such a federation?

Why would the RoI wish to give up her independence? They reality is that while she is part of the EU the RoI is not independent. To begin withshe has no control of her currency because the RoI is part of the Eurozone. To that can be added the huge amount of control through EU regulations and directives., interferences with national sovereignty which a small state such as the RoI has little influence over because of the EU’s qualified majority voting. Moreover, the way the EU is going member states are likely to have less and less national autonomy as the federalist project proceeds. (An alternative plausible and damaging scenario is that the EU collapses within the next ten years , most probably through the other states wanting to follow the UK’s example and leave the EU or simply because the Euro crashes. This would leave the RoI on her own. )

For a long time the RoI benefitted greatly from being a net beneficiary with more money coming to the RoI than the RoI sent to Brussels. That is changing rapidly. The net payment the ROI receives from the EU no longer huge in relation to the size of her economy (GDP €214.623 billion in 2015). The ROI’s financial delings with the EU in 2015 were:

Total EU spending in Ireland: € 2.009 billion

Total EU spending as % of Irish gross national income (GNI): 1.10 %

Total Irish contribution to the EU budget: € 1.558 billion

Irish contribution to the EU budget as % of its GNI: 0.86 %

It is probable that within the next few years the RoI will become a regular net contributor to the EU budget.

As for RoI exports , those to the EU have declined by over the past year while RoI exports to countries outside the EU grew.

Set against a background of declining monetary benefit, weakening exports to the EU and increasing uncertainty as to where the EU is going the considerable advantages the RoI would gain in addition to removing the problems a border between the RoI and Northern Ireland create begin to look decidedly attractive.

The RoI would be part of a political unit which was a significant military power, was a permanent member of the UN Security Council and held high positions in powerful international bodies such as the IMF and the World Bank.

The fact that the RoI is part of the Eurozone need not be a great problem, because the RoI could immediately switch to the Pound Sterling as their currency. This would entail far less upheaval than the RoI would experience if they remained in the EU and had to either leave the Euro of their own accord because it was too damaging or simply find themselves without a currency because the Euro had collapsed.

Nonetheless I can see what an emotional wrench such a course would be for any country which thinks of itself as a sovereign state. That this is largely a sham whilst the RoI is within the EU (the same applies to the UK until Brexit is achieved) is neither here nor there if people think of a country as sovereign. Moreover, Ireland as a whole has a long and fraught history with the British mainland. Nonetheless , the RoI would have full control of her domestic matters and would actually have more control in many areas because there is so much that the EU now controls which would be left to each part of the federation.

There is also the greater question of what the world will be like in ten or twenty years. Western Europe including the British Isles has enjoyed a remarkably long period of peace. That may well not last. The threat may not come from European powers but new superpowers such as China and India. This is not fanciful. There are approximately 7 billion people in the world at present of whom at a most generous estimate only one billion live in the West. It is overly sanguine to imagine that such huge blocks of humanity living outside the West will remain forever without expansionist tendencies, tendencies which could extend to Europe or even North America. China in particular is engaged in quasi-empire building throughout the developing world. In addition, there are strong signs that the world is casting globalisation aside with protectionist sympathies growing. That makes the RoI’s substantial trade with the UK potentially even more important than it is now for we are likely to enter a world in which countries look to their own advantage. . Finally, there is the still largely ignored by politicians threat of catastrophic unemployment which is almost certain to come in the next decade or two from the huge advances in robotics and Artificial Intelligence which will allow most existing jobs and, most importantly, most new jobs which arise, to be done without human involvement .

In such an uncertain world being part of a serious military, diplomatic and economic power could be much to the RoI’s 4.5 million population’s advantage

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41 comments

  • I have long espoused re-union with Ireland – with a federal government based in Liverpool which is already a virtual enclave. Or even Dublin. Or perhaps its English namesake Blackpool?

    But I fear the Irish may have some objections.

  • The “Irish border question” is easy to resolve. Ireland is an island. Once the UK stops occupying six of the counties on that island, the coastline will be the border.

    • The UK is not in “occupation” of the Six Counties.

      A mixture of lowland Scots and northern English people settled there a long time ago, and the majority of their descendants, together with a substantial minority (and possibly a narrow majority) of those descended from the more ancient Irish, wish to remain part of the UK.

      For that reason – and only for that reason (the British government having stated twenty years ago that it has, to quote, “no selfish strategic interest” in Northern Ireland) – the UK has sovereignty over Northern Ireland and Northern Ireland is a constituent division of the United Kingdom, and so part of my country, just like Yorkshire is, where I am from.

      Thus, what you pejoratively describe as an “occupation” is not that at all – and never has been.

    • You may have noticed that our people live there, and want to remain with us. Indeed, the only reason why so many in the Fenian Entity are disaffected from their natural loyalty is because of massive ethnic cleansing in the 1920s.

      • Sean,

        In order for “your people” to “remain” with you, they would need to be with you in the first place. That shouldn’t be a problem. I’m under the impression that there are frequent ferries running between the place where they are and the place where you say they want to be.

        • Now Tommy be fair. The people I presume Sean refers to want to live in Ireland – as their ancestors have for centuries – AND to remain British.

          • steve P,

            When my great-grandfather (one of the “Scots Irish” Presbyterians you’re talking about) moved from Ireland to the United States, so far as I know he didn’t start complaining that six counties of Virginia should be set aside as “Northern Virginia” so that he could remain either Irish or British.

            People who want to be British should settle in Britain instead of squatting on someone else’s island and demanding to not be part of it.

            • Since you live in a territory taken by violence from the Red Indians, you’re a fine one to dismiss the legitimacy of settler communities.

      • Sean help me with the history. Which effnics were cleared from where in the 1920s and by whom?

        • http://ulster-scots.co.uk/docs/articles/historical/exodus.htm

    • If that happened, Thomas, you would have civil war.

      • Sorry, this has not come out below the post I thought I was replying to. The Thomas here is Thomas Knapp.

        If that happened, Thomas, you would have civil war.

  • (i). I would support a British-Irish unification of some kind, as I regard the Irish as British anyway and I think the split between the two countries is unnatural and down to the agitation of a minority rather than the wishes of the majority.

    However, I think in order for the Irish to be willing to consent, the structure would need to be a loose confederation – and I mean loose – rather than the more conventional federal system proposed in the essay. Even from the British perspective, I would have concerns about a close federation with Ireland due to the political culture that exists there, which for historical reasons is very leftist and also, at the moment, cosmopolitan. Harm could be done to England, if Irish politicians and social policy experts were to start exerting influence over, say, our education system.

    The advantage of a very loose confederation arrangement, for both sides, is that it would ensure there is a ‘firewall’ between the constituent sovereign states. The shared competences would be defence and foreign policy and fiscal matters (due to a shared currency). Ireland would retain its sovereignty, so there would be no serious issue of British intrusion into Irish affairs; conversely we would not have leftist Irish interference in, say, English social issues. The same would also apply for Scotland viz. English issues. Ireland would adopt the joint defence and foreign policy, as a ‘client’ of the confederation, but England would have to have the major say as it is the main contributor. Ireland would compensate for this by reserving a unique ‘Irish’ position in certain areas, such as international aid, immigration and so on, in which they would be able to follow their own path within certain parameters.

    (ii). I agree with the author that there needs to be an overarching English legislative body, with a minimal federal (I would say, confederal) institution, as there is a need to protect the ‘English’ approach to things (into which I incorporate Wales) against the influences of Scotland (and if there is a cross-national federation, also Ireland). However, unlike the author, I do not oppose balkanisation. England is multi-cultural, and that’s a good thing. It’s just that proper multi-culturalism means the opposite of what the racial Left would have it mean. I am from the north of England. We are different from the south. I think England should be balkanised – frankly, it’s balkanised already, even as a white society, and always has been. As I see it, an English Assembly would just provide an overarching framework, and would be made-up of delegates from English local government, where the real power would be. I would greatly like to see a renaissance in local government in England. Not regional assemblies, but powerful local councils that control education, transport, policing and so on.

    (ii). One more thing. Wales should not be treated as a separate entity. The correct formulation is England & Wales. Wales is not a country in the sense that Scotland and Ireland are. It is politically a part of England, albeit like Cornwall, having a distinct and proud ethnic identity of its own. Especially in view of the Brexit referendum result, I would like to think England & Wales will continue and that we do not become England and Wales – i.e. denoting that ‘and’ is not per se &, ‘&’ having connotations of closeness and partnership). The relationship is sui generis and transcends friendship. Wales is our junior partner, but it’s not a marriage (as with Scotland); rather they are part of us, but separate, joined to us intimately and to be indulged. Until the ‘National Assembly for Wales’ came into being, Wales was not to be regarded as a separate country in any sense other than perhaps sentimentally. I think it is sad that some misguided people wish to change this, and it’s telling that the Welsh Assembly is very unpopular among the real Welsh – most of its prominent politicians are treated as something of a joke and the whole thing is seen as a vanity project for ambitious ‘Anglos’.

    • I think you need to work on your views wrt Wales – or at the very least their expression. Try to sound less condescending and patronising.

      • Frankly, I don’t give a flying freehold whether or not you find my method of expression to your liking. My method of expression is what it is. I don’t generally set out to offend individuals on here, and I won’t bite unless I am first bitten (ask David J. Webb and Thomas Knapp, both of whom have set out to provoke me and have got more than they bargained for in return). I certainly have done nothing to you as an individual, I haven’t attacked you or anybody else, and I’m not in breach of the letter or spirit of the rules of this forum. So I’m not doing anything wrong. I’m just telling you what I think.

        In fact, if anybody is in the wrong here, it’s you. Your response is not an argument. This is supposed to be an intellectual forum, not a safe space for precious, easily-offended Welshmen.

        But on the subject of being condescending and patronising, that’s what the traditional relationship between England and Wales is. Wales is the junior in the relationship. It’s not insulting. England is the most powerful division, and that has set the dynamic of most of recent British history between the different nations. That’s just a fact and I will repeat that I can’t and won’t take Wales seriously as a separate country, though I don’t mean that to denigrate the Welsh. You can take or leave it.

        • Mr. Rogers,

          I have no idea when, where or how you think I “set out to provoke” you. Such an activity would imply that I care what you think about something, anything. That’s not the case. Have a nice day.

          • Thanks for the further example, Mr Knapp. It’s this sort of childishness that I am talking about.

            If Mr Knapp doesn’t care about my views, then the mystery is why he spends so much time superintending my postings here.

            He seems to have nominated himself as the Chief Moral Conscience of Internet Libertarianism and I know that he privately yearns to be promoted to the role of censor.

            I repeat here an observation I have made previously about Mr Knapp:

            If he ever were in a position of power, he would be the most authoritarian person you can imagine. His ‘libertarian’ credentials are a thin pretence, as they always are with people like him.

            I know what you are.

            • Mr. Rogers,

              You certainly seem to “know” a lot of things that are 180 degrees out of phase with reality.

              The amount of time I spend engaging with you is, to a degree of 100%, contingent on the amount of time you spend talking to, or about me.

              Under no circumstances have I ever, nor under any circumstances would I ever, censor anyone. Noticing that you’re an idiot isn’t censoring you.

              • It’s clear what you are (at least to me).

                All further comment would be superfluous.

        • Tom if you read my comment carefully before bristling you may benefit. Assuming you want to promote your views rather than just express them. I voted against the Welsh Assembly but I think if we had another referendum now it would probably survive.

          So the Welsh start AS a distinct polity. If you insist on calling them “Junior” they will not agree to reunion.

          Are you like Uncle Jock marching at the tattoo?

          • I have no interest in promoting anything. I just come here to read the articles, and if I decide that I have something useful to contribute, especially if it’s a different take on things, I will.

            I still don’t understand what you’re trying to tell me. I already know the Welsh are a distinct polity – I mentioned that in my original comment, and I am saddened by it.

            • I’m trying to get you to realise that even if YOU see the population of Wales as “junior” it is remarkably silly to express that in that way as it will offend people who think of themselves as (at least) the EQUALS of the English.

              It is also wrong. Read the ActY Deddfau Cyfreithiau yng Nhgymru 1535 a 1542

              "(4) some rude and ignorant People have made Distinction and Diversity between the King's Subjects of this Realm, and his Subjects of the said Dominion and Principality of Wales, whereby great Discord, Variance, Debate, Division, Murmur and Sedition hath grown between his said Subjects;
              
              (5) His Highness therefore of a singular Zeal, Love and Favour that he beareth towards his Subjects of his said Dominion of Wales, minding and intending to reduce them to the perfect Order, Notice and Knowledge of his Laws of this Realm, and utterly to extirp all and singular the sinister Usages and Customs differing from the same, and to bring the said Subjects of this his Realm, and of his said Dominion of Wales, to an amicable Concord and Unity..."
              

              and therefore:

              “That his said Country or Dominion of Wales shall be, stand and continue for ever from henceforth incorporated, united and annexed to and with this his Realm of England;”[1]

              • I don’t care about offending people in a general sense (as long as it’s not illegal).

                It’s the targeting of individuals which I think is wrong, but which is often a feature of this forum – and seems to be a feature of this thread. I can’t express an opinion now without being nagged and harassed. I’m not a politician, a porn star, an international drug trafficker or a captain of industry. I’m just a bloke tapping at a keyboard. Can’t you just leave me alone?

                Anyway, you’re quoting from ancient documents. Fine, but I’m talking about geopolitical facts.

                Also I didn’t say that Welsh people are the junior of English people (or in any other way inferior). I said that Wales is the junior partner of England – which is true.

                • Tom I’ve just watched on BBCi the BBC “Muslims like us” which i commend to you.

                  It illustrates your phrase “which is true”

                  Henry VIII said Wales was EQUAL.

                  Had you made your claim in his era – choppy choppy head head.

                  Here’s a wiki with more

                  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laws_in_Wales_Acts_1535_and_1542

                  If you maintain your claim that Wales is “junior” please cite evidence.

                  • I don’t care what Henry VIII said. He was a Tudor anyway. I’m talking about the situation in reality.

    • Definitely agree on the points re a loose confederation and its benefits.

      • Yes, and I mean a confederation in the truest sense, with separate political systems. Ireland can keep its republican system and Britain (if we want to, I don’t want to, but that’s another matter) will keep its monarchy.

    • “However, I think in order for the Irish to be willing to consent, the structure would need to be a loose confederation – and I mean loose – rather than the more conventional federal system proposed in the essay. Even from the British perspective, I would have concerns about a close federation with Ireland due to the political culture that exists there, which for historical reasons is very leftist and also, at the moment, cosmopolitan. Harm could be done to England, if Irish politicians and social policy experts were to start exerting influence over, say, our education system”

      Tom – What I have proposed would deal with those objections. . I have proposed that each of the devolved counties would have full power over their domestic affairs, with only things such as foreign policy, immigration and defence reserved to the federal government.

      • Robert, I think Tom’s objection does have some weight. “Obamacare” could not happen under your proposed system; yet it has happened in the USA as it is. Further safeguards are necessary.

        • Well, Neil, it is true that constitutions can become corrupted as the US one has been, but it does not have to be that way. To begin with the federation I am proposing would not have a supreme court and it is the supreme court in the US from which much of the corruption of the US Constitution has come. neither would there be two federal houses as they are in the US which provides for all sorts of mischief when it comes to trading this against that.Nor would there be a president or any other officer with powers to sign executive orders or veto legislation. Frinally, I would also make sure that the areas reserved to the federal government were very clearly defined,something which the US constitution, admirable document that it is, was not precise enough about.

          What I propose would produce a constitution with the structural weaknesses of the US Constitution removed. These were understandable at the time because the newly formed USA was basing their system on a tweaked version of the British Constitution with the President = king; the Senate = The Lords and the House of Representatives = The House of Commons. But this is not fit for the present day.

          The other things which would also favour the maintenance of the initial state of affairs in the proposed federation is that there would be only five “states”. That alone would give each state much more power to prevent any abusive extension of federal power because no state could be ignored with only five in play.

          • Robert,

            The reason I would be concerned about a federal arrangement is that I think it would eventually lead to a shift in power back to the centre and would also lead to leftist influences from Ireland damaging England, in a similar way that Scotland already has. I admit I am also looking at this chauvinistically and I think a confederation would best suit England’s interests.

            The basic problem with federations is that any democratic notions such as constituent rights, devolution of competences, subsidiarity and non-interference and so, are heavily reliant on the honouring of basic constitutional laws and conventions, and we only have to look at the largest federations around the world: Australia, Canada, the United States, and so on, to see that in practice most federations gradually metamorphose into unitary states in all but name. Those that don’t – I’m thinking of the UAE in particular – are actually confederations.

            The confederal model is geopolitically advantageous to England, and by extension the rest of the current UK, because it allows us to project power and influence over Ireland without the closeness and responsibility of a federal or unitary relationship.

            Each constituent state retains its sovereignty, which means that (within certain parameters) Ireland will be able to operate in its own political and social realm, ‘buying’ whatever services it needs to from us (including fiscal institutions, defence and intelligence services, etc.), while pursuing its own path in everything else. For instance, the Irish could remain a republic, have a more liberal immigration and foreign policy compared to the ‘mainland’ states, and pursue whatever other bright ideas they come up with in any other area, without causing damage to the rest of the would-be Confederation.

            • “For instance, the Irish could remain a republic, have a more liberal immigration and foreign policy compared to the ‘mainland’ states, and pursue whatever other bright ideas they come up with in any other area, without causing damage to the rest of the would-be Confederation.”

              Allowing that would a sure way of dissolving the confederation.

              • You may be right, but unless the political culture changes radically, allowing the Irish into federation with us would all-but guarantee a further large boc of Left voters on ‘federal’ issues like immigration, defence, foreign aid, international relationships (e.g. EU membership) and so on.

                • In a confederation or a federation with the national identities still intact I think you would find that the majority of voters would adopt what you would call right wing views on ” like immigration, defence, foreign aid, international relationships (e.g. EU membership) ” because they would come to see that as a necessity simply to protect their part of the union, whether or not they started from an internationalist standpoint.

  • The ideas in this essay are most interesting. As I, among others, have come to expect whenever Robert Henderson posts here. Thank you, Robert.

    And, as one who seeks at the same time larger zones of economic and personal freedom and smaller political units, I’ll say there is much to commend these ideas. And Tom Rogers’ idea of a (very) loose confederation is a potential bonus.

    As to the Welsh, I don’t see why they shouldn’t be allowed their own status. In my own experience over several decades, I have found Irish people closer to me in many cultural respects (such as language and attitude to alcohol) than the Welsh.

    And to (only slightly) misquote Tom Knapp: “People who want to be in the Union should settle in the Union instead of squatting on someone else’s territory and demanding to not be part of it.” Of course, I speak here not of “Northern Virginia,” but West Virginia.

    • Neil,

      “Virginia” was land bounded by arbitrary, politically decided lines. Those lines had been created from whole cloth, and then modified in the past (the state of Kentucky was cut out of and formed from southwestern Virginia),

      “Ireland,” on the other hand, is a single island clearly demarcated by obvious geographical boundaries (coastlines).

      That obviously doesn’t dispel the whole of the analogy you’re making, of course. On the other hand, I was mostly just taking the piss out of the author. I’m not sad to have been born on this side of the Atlantic, rather than in County Cork (my great-great-grandfather was from there but was deported circa 1830 for shooting at a tax collector).

      • Tom (K not R),

        When I referred to “someone else’s territory,” I was talking of the Confederacy. An “arbitrary, politically decided line,” no? My (mis?) use of your words stands.

        What makes you think that an island – even a small one – forms a natural political territory? Cyprus is a counter-example. Or Haiti/Dominican Republic. Or PNG/Irian Jaya. Or we can go the other way, to the Isle of Wight. Or what about Crimea?

        As to “arbitrary, politically decided lines,” what of the US borders with Canada and Mexico?

        I do salute your great-great-grandfather for his efforts, but he obviously must have failed, else you wouldn’t be with us today.

        • Neil,

          Good argument. I concede.

          I left a “great” out. It was my great-great-great grandfather. I don’t think he failed. His son was a western Virginia coal miner who fought for the Union 🙂

  • Reblogged this on rudolfwordpressblog and commented:

    The old, outdated empire of sea, Great Britain, is an oxymoron of its own. Good for Mme Tussaud’s museum. It’s a safe harbour for aliens & alienation.
    The same jewish banksters’ demoKratic regime of crime which unleashed WWII, funded the arabian colonies (& much more for mere mercantilist interest) now drone states, has come to an end.

    Let’s get Ireland, Scotland and the Malvinas Island free and independent. Then we can talk back about current England.

    • Eschew trodledytic nourishment I think.

      • The value of those polls is homologue to the deep significance of modern demoKracy..

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