Edinburgh. It was one of the most poignant moments in the Brexit saga: Just over a year ago, after voting to leave the UK, a large number of MEPs sang “Auld Lang Syne”, a song about friendship and solidarity, about hope and goodbye. . It was made famous by the Scottish national poet Robert Burns.
The German version of this song met the mood of the Scots, who voted against Brexit with a large majority, and even more conveniently: “Say goodbye, brothers, all return is uncertain. The future lies in the dark and weighs our hearts.”
The walls of the United Kingdom are collapsing
The whiff of darkness that settled on the UK’s outlook is evident in the smoke from burning cars in Belfast, Northern Ireland, as well as in the return of Scottish independence. It is becoming increasingly clear how fragile the UK’s structure is, and what fault lines are opening up as consequences of Brexit.
Almost forgotten Prime Minister David Cameron decided to hold two referendums on the country’s future, both intended to be a breakthrough to put an issue aside for an entire generation. In 2014, the Scots voted 55 to 45 percent to remain in the kingdom – a kingdom that was still part of the European Union at the time.
One of the arguments against independence at the time was that a new Scottish country must first apply to join the European Union – and many people in the Highlands and Lowlands would not want to live without Europe. In 2016, Cameron wagered away – Brexit passed 52 to 48 per cent. However, the Scottish question crept back onto the agenda.
Johnson could not refuse to hold a new referendum
On Thursday, the Scots will elect a new Provincial Parliament. Independence is not – yet – a problem. But if supporters of the second referendum obtain a clear majority, the path to a new vote will be as clear as it is.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will decide this in London, but if Nicolas Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party obtains an absolute majority, he will not be able to refuse to go to the polls again.
What happens next? A glance at the Irish Sea could be a warning about unresolved disputes that could flare up again due to technical bugs in Brexit. 100 years ago Ireland was divided into the Republic and Northern Ireland.
As then, society is deeply divided over international treaties being negotiated, as conflict researcher Katie Hayward explained. Scotland’s relationship with the rest of the kingdom is different, it is closer to coexistence on an equal footing. However, a new front in Europe is getting more and more likely.