One of the Western Mail’s more regular letter writers is Sir Eric Howells, a former Welsh chair of the Conservative Party before he went out of favour for highlighting the takeover of the local conservative association by the hunting fraternity. He’s also a die-hard anti-devolutionist, and although something of a persona non grata with his former party, he’s probably closer to the membership’s views on many things than many of those in leadership roles today.
His latest missive (in yesterday’s Western Mail) contained two passages which struck me in particular. In referring to the possibility of Scotland’s independence, he suggested that they should go, but that “within a few years they will be knocking on the door of number 10 asking to come back to the union”, and turning his attention to Ireland, said, “Why not offer them to come back into the Union”.
Lest anyone think that I’m just picking on Sir Eric here, there was also a counter-factual future-history article in the Sunday Times late last year written by Professor Niall Ferguson which suggested that, in the light of the Euro crisis and the conversion of the EU into the USE, Ireland might choose within the next ten years to re-unite with the UK on the basis of a slogan “Better Brits than Brussels”.
Now, of course, no-one can be certain what will happen in the future, and we can all enjoy a bit of speculation and a thought-provoking counter-factual. But the idea that either Ireland or Scotland (if it chooses independence, which is far from certain as yet) will return to London begging to be let back in is too far-fetched to be credible. I’m open to be proved wrong on this, but I don’t believe that there’s a single example in modern history – or perhaps even all history – in which a nation secedes from a state and then asks to rejoin it.
The fact that others can, even fleetingly, consider it remotely possible suggests a belief that there is a natural order of things under which we are all British really, and any deviation from that is just a temporary aberration.
It reminds me of the fact-finding trip I and around 10 other members of Plaid took to Brussels in 1974 or 1975, prior to the referendum on remaining in the EEC. One evening, a Tory MEP came to sit with a group of us, on the basis that we were all Brits together in a foreign place. The idea that we might, as Welsh people, see ourselves as having more in common with mainstream European politicians than with a Tory who happened to be from the UK, and that we might see Wales as being more akin to other submerged nations in Europe than to the ‘regions’ of England was something that he simply could not understand.Talk of Scotland and Ireland ‘returning to the fold’ in due course, merely confirms that those of a certain perspective still don’t get it. They probably never will.