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Permanent Security Council Seat Up For Grabs?

News from the not-very-United Kingdom these days is that the Scottish National Party, now in full control of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, plans to press ahead for a referendum on full independence for the land of Burns.  Rejecting the idea that fiscal independence would be enough, SNP head and Scots first minister Alex Salmond told his cheering party conference that independence in foreign policy was a key party goal: “[E]ven with economic powers Trident nuclear missiles would still be on the River Clyde, […]we could still be forced to spill blood in “illegal wars” such as Iraq, and still be excluded from the councils of Europe and the world.”  (From the invaluable, if pay wall protected, Financial Times.)

In other words, it’s the whole thing the Scots want, and this raises a question: if the UK breaks up, can little England (even if Northern Ireland and Wales stay loyal) hold on to one of only five permanent seats on the UN Security Council?  Legally a case can be made that England would be the successor state to the UK, and could therefore hold on to the seat, but one wonders whether countries like India and Japan could accept a system in which the English rump of the UK would continue to hold a veto-wielding seat denied to them?

Scottish secession would have other implications.  For one thing, the Tory Party would be hard to beat if the Scots leave Westminster.  In the 2010 general election, the Conservatives won 297 seats in England, with 191 for Labor and 43 for the Liberal Democrats.  In Scotland, Labor won 41 and the Tories got only one seat.  (The Lib Dems got 11 and the Scottish Nationalists came in with 6.)

England without Scotland might also consider leaving the EU.  The Scots are traditionally more pro-European than the English, and the euro crisis has made the EU less popular than ever south of the border.  A smaller England would have less influence in the EU, strengthening the anti-EU case among many English voters. Take the English out, and the EU itself is less stable: much as the French dislike the English (and vice versa), the French these days would not welcome anything that reduced their ability to find EU allies to help balance the Germans.  Franco-German cooperation probably gets harder in an EU without the UK.

The future of Northern Ireland would also be up for grabs.  The last British election delivered a shock: for the first time since Ireland was partitioned back in 1922, the pro-union (with Britain) parties failed to get a majority among Northern Ireland’s representatives in the British Parliament.  Eight seats went to nationalist (pro-Irish) parties and eight went to unionists.  The Catholic population in Northern Ireland continues to rise; it’s likely that the secession of Scotland would reopen the discussion over the future of Northern Ireland sooner rather than later.

The Welsh are taking this all pretty calmly; at present there are only three MPs from Plaid Cymru, the Welsh nationalist party and overall the nationalists got only 11 percent of the vote in the last general election.  However, Wales like Scotland is heavily Labor; it’s not clear how the Welsh would feel long term about a union with Europhobic, Tory England.

The Scots will do as they please, but it’s hard for a friendly foreigner not to hope the Union holds up.  The US doesn’t have such a surplus of allies that we welcome the sight of one crumbling.

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  • Hank

    Well if, a big if< the Eur problems get straightened out, and they get a single forign policy what is the justification for the EU to have 2 perment members an 20 some votes in the General assembly?

    Hank’s Eclectic Meanderings

  • dearieme

    “Edinburough”: oh for heaven’s sake. Lash those ruddy interns, Mr Mead.

  • Toni

    Allow me to make myself predictable. I think a Tory, Euro-skeptic England, standing alone, would be no bad thing.

    America’s strengths are built largely on English strengths. We can trace our right to vote ultimately to the Magna Carta, by which English barons curbed the king’s power — the first and for centuries the only codified limits on European kings and emperors. Our legal system is based on English, not British, common law. Our literature grew from Chaucer, Shakespeare, and later English writers. In our colleges, those who study world literature are still called “English majors.”

    Americans have an excellent role model in phlegmatic, whine-free, no-nonsense John Bull, he of the stiff upper lip. Think of Londoners standing up to Hitler’s blitz. They and we might be German-speakers today if not for a certain strong-minded Englishman.

    Given the still-boiling euro crisis, isn’t Euro-skepticism another strength? The English pound predates the Norman Conquest of 1066.

    If the Labor-smitten Scots and Welsh wish to trade the sturdy pound for the euro, the sturdy English will be just fine without them. In that event, by all means, Churchill’s countrymen should inherit the UK’s seat on the security council.

  • Charles R. Williams

    Just as anglophone Canada should have said good riddance to Quebec. The English should do everything in their power to encourage Scotland to leave the UK. The truth is that sovereignty means less and less in Europe. The Spaniards can say goodbye to the Catalans and the Basques, Belgium can split and so can Italy. This affects the national politicians but nobody else.

  • Eurydice

    @Toni – I’m all admiration for the English people, but during a recent trip to London I wondered where they were keeping “phlegmatic, whine-free, no-nonsense” John Bull – perhaps he was imprisoned in the Tower somewhere. Across the landscape there wasn’t a stiff upper lip to be seen – all was “stress, stress, stress.”

    As for the UN, I don’t know that they care how sturdy and deserving the English people are, how glorious their past and how deep their cultural contributions. It seems to me the issue is how useful they can continue to be as a political player in whatever agenda exists today.

  • Kenny

    “They and we might be German-speakers today if not for a certain strong-minded Englishman.

    We! That’s way over the top.

    And insread of arguing over permanent security council seats at the United Nations, it would be more constructive to talk about a planned exit of the U.S. from that dysfunction and immoral organization.

  • Jim.

    Well, this raises the interesting question of what a Leftist-style post-super-power US might look like.

    England suffers above all from a failure to inspire — either respect or fear. The Empire is gone. So is the Royal Navy. James Bond is a quaint throwback these days. The Scots are inspired to put no English ally above their own parochial interests; they fear no latter-day Hammer.

    If the US really is going to abandon inspiring national projects like NASA, why would the people of our several states still bother to wish to be Americans? Particularly if local interests and politics differ dramatically from Washington?

    If we’re really going to reduce our military dramatically, to the point that any secessionist effort could successfully resist Unionist attack — or if the culture of the Union simply doesn’t want to go to war to preserve itself (as we’re presumably seeing in England now) — what could hold us together?

    Declining America would probably split into at least nine separate countries. At that point, checkerboard diplomacy with the rest of the world would step in and God only knows what the future would hold.

    Back to Britain — one big question: Can the Scots alone actually *afford* to keep nuke subs afloat, and upgrade / replace then as time went on? Wouldn’t a nuclear Scotland be, essentially, an independent nuclear Kansas? (“We’ll try to stay serene and calm, when Alabama gets the bomb”.) $131 billion just isn’t very big, particularly compared to the $7-$8 billion dollar price tag to update and replace the fleet of three or four they’d be maintaining.

    Interesting direction that could go: what if, in exchange for the funds to support them, the EU “nationalized” the Scots nuke sub fleet, providing the core of an EU military? Would it be in the US’s best interests to make a counteroffer?

    I devoutly wish that our politicians would include statesmen capable of formulating strategies to react to challenges like this. I don’t believe our current crop is equipped to do that, period.

  • cas

    An “independent” Scotland would end the 300+ years of “forced union” with England, but “I no’ think this means wha’ yae think it means”.
    Scotland, left to themselves,(or else in “closer” union with Europe) will NOT be able to support herself, as will England (barely, but still…) Another interesting question; does Scotland take the more independent / neutral stance that Ireland took after 1922, or does Scotland remain “loyal to the crown” and a member of the British Commonwealth?
    I don’t see the Welsh in any hurry to leave the Untied Kingdom, but Northern Ireland will probably stick until the end, or until the Unionists are outnumbered…

  • Gordon Kennedy

    Toni I think your so very wrong.
    Scotland will be fine on it’s own……I’m not so sure about England

    Yes, I think England has always stood alone as being Euro Sceptic & Tory. Szarkosy has already explained to Cameron to “Shut up & stop meddling”

    America was built on principles that the English despised and forced the advocates of to flee England. Freedom from oppression, freedom to experiment, invent and invest without vested interests incompetently blocking progress.

    Andrew Carnegie’s family was driven from Scotland because it suited Mill owners to oppress workers rights.

    Political events made English the ligua franca of America, Dutch, French and Spanish and Pennsylvania German texts were more popular in the original 13 states.

    John Hancock wrote large, Jefferson ( Welsh family ) wrote in English that King George could read without glasses, but he ofcourse was German.

    Americas greatness is not simply its natural resources, but that it took from states around the globe the best, brightest, those with the guts and enterprise to travel thousands of miles and create new lives free of oppressive regimes. English was simply the language of trade.

    Right to Vote is not a direct descendent of the Magna Carta, a document that was torn up almost as soon as it was sealed.

    The Gettysburg Address and Declaration of Independence are both a product of the Scottish Enlightenment of the 1770’s to which all Europe and North America turned.

    The Declaration of Arbroath 1320 is the real declaration of Human Rights which inspired America, the model the continental army used in its struggle for independence from England was Scotland’s struggle for independence from England.

    English Law as a framework was inherited, but not in Louisiana being originally French, and dont you think it was an expedient and convienient basis to start a new republic post revolution.

    It seems to me that the influences that began the USA were a hasty composite, without the time to structure and develop the best, they adopted what was already in the courthouses of the former colonial power.

    I’d always thought the senate and congress model indicated a prefernce to Roman influence rather than the Anglo-Saxon common law.

    American Literature was often books banned in England; Thomas Paine was one step ahead of a lynch mob in England, The first drill book of the continental army was by the German self styled Baron Von Steuban,

    England had a tradition of banning books, literature and theatre, whether shakespear or Milton.

    There are some patriots who fought in the continental army in the 1776 Revolution and were also some of the inventors who powered the American industrial revolution, coincidently Scots.

    The list is too long for the Scots who invented and built America after that but ya can look it up, Andrew Carnegie being the least of them. But its fair to say his family fled to America one step ahead of another Tory lynch mob.

    John Bull is another fictional character invented for London gazettes (Italian term for type of newspaper) popularised by George Bernard Shaw (an Irishman who made fun of English habits).

    I have it on good authority there was a Blitz in Clydebank, Scotland as well as London England……..At least thats what my mum tells me, she remembers watching it.

    The pound sterling is the currency used commmonly by the Normans,…who were Norsk settlers from France and about as Anglo-Saxon as a Haggis by the way.

    CHurchill was the man who initially banned the common English worker from entering the underground of London to avoid bombing, “incase they didnt come back up again”.

    He is also the military incompetant that sent my Grandfather and plenty other Scots to Gallipoli, so no role model there.

    ……..And ofcourse the US Navy was founded by the Scotsman John Paul Jones.

    I’d say let Scotland flourish

  • Mrs. Davis

    He is also the military incompetant that sent my Grandfather and plenty other Scots to Gallipoli, so no role model there.

    Which kindness was returned by Scotsman Douglas Haig who exterminated a generation of Englishmen in the trenches.

    And so it goes.

  • joe

    I think outright independence and not “max devo” would be a colossal mistake. A small nation of Houston’s size with limited natural resources can not survive on its own. Yes, I am aware of North Sea Oil and that secession would allow a newly independent Scotland to redraw their fishing boundaries outside of the EU’s directives, but Scotland’s present success is predicated on being part of the UK, especially the London financial and labor markets. Approximately 24% of the Scot labor force works for the government and I am not sure what percentage of the labor force works for multi-nationals or English companies, but it can’t be negligible.

    There is a social aspect to the decision which the SNP and general discussion ignores. England can vote against Scotland’s accession to the EU in full or in part. Why wouldn’t England treat Scotland in the short term in the same fashion as Bosnia and restrict employment visas? English jobs for Englishmen and Englishwomen. It could sting on many levels. Scots being filed away with foreign nationals in their applications for Oxbridge places, higher fees for public schools and more restrictive capital funding rules for new and existing businesses.

  • David Billington

    An interesting question.

    The UN has transferred a permanent seat twice, once when it moved the China seat from Taiwan to mainland China, and again when it recognized Russia’s assumption of the Soviet Union’s seat. England as such is not a member of the United Nations and its inheritance of the permanent British seat on the Security Council could be blocked by another permanent member. Russia could propose India for the permanent seat instead, and would have foreign policy reasons of its own for doing so.

    My guess is that England would want to preempt such a setback, give the seat to India, and rely on the United States to represent its interests, which we already more or less do.

    An independent Scotland would compete with England for trade, investment, and talent, and would have close ties to the EU and France, while England (where the Conservative party would no longer need the Liberal Democrats) could experiment with a Euroskeptical variant of Thatcherism. But Conservative dominance in England would tend to generate an electable opposition over time (probably a coalition of the two other parties). The English invented modern democratic government and I can’t see them settling into one-party rule as a permanent condition.

  • Walter Sobchak

    David Billington: England has first past the post, single member district, elections, which are supposed to encourage a 2 party format.

    I am not sure about a Labour SD merger becoming the opposition. My guess would be a Conservative fission between the Thatcherite tendency and the Wets.

    The leftists will join the Wets who will support continuation of the welfare state, and the BBC. But, the Wets and the leftists will not be running an ideological party they will be conservative, trying to keep things as they are.

    The Thatcherites will become an ideological party, much like the Libertarians in the US. They will have the blessing of not having to deal with foreign policy, or maintaining a military. They will be able to devolve the Army into a professional training staff for the militia, and the Navy into a coast guard. Their foreign policy will be quitting the EU, making sure that the American People love them, and insulting the French.

    As for the UN, I agree with #6 Kenny that the US should quit. But as an incentive for the coruptocrats to get out of our grilles, we should pick up the tab for moving the operation to some place where it can be in touch with the real problems of the world. I suggest Lagos.

  • Corlyss

    Peter Hitchens, Christopher’s more conservative brother, has claimed for years that the Eurocrats have been focused on bring Great Britain to heel by slicing and dicing it into its constitutent parts. It would be a shame if that happened. Britian could probably say goodbye to the fiece Scotsmen who’ve fought and died for the realm for centuries. At the same time, Scotland herself alone could scarcely mount an army worthy of the name with Scotland’s limited resources.

  • David Billington

    Walter Sobchak “I am not sure about a Labour SD merger becoming the opposition. My guess would be a Conservative fission between the Thatcherite tendency and the Wets.”

    What I meant is tactical voting of the kind that enabled Labour to win three elections between 1997 and 2005 with the support of the Liberal Democrats. I think you would see that again in an England with a Conservative majority, with moderates in all parties perhaps holding the swing votes.

    Right now, though, I agree with you that the Conservatives are probably more deeply divided internally, over Europe. Prime Minister Cameron has a difficult path to navigate.

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