Bristling Brock speaks out...

 

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The SNP seems inexorably plugged in to the pursuit of Scottish Independence, the Welsh look on and wait to see what happens there whilst Northern Ireland continues to wrestle quietly (for the time being) with the intractable challenges of Irish nationalism.   The English ?   Well, the English just grumble about everything - it's something of a national past-time to search for an issue about which the letter writers, the social media bloggers and the media pundits can have a good old moan about.   Glass half empty - you bet !

Beneath this caricature of the United Kingdoms internal trials and tribulations is, however, something far more fundamental.   The nation state.   The very essence of the United Kingdom is spelled out in its name - 'United'.   It's foundations are, of course, historical but in truth the UK as a constitutional entity is less than a century old, only in 1922 did it come about with the independence of the Irish Republic.  Before that we have a near 2,000 year backdrop to how the component parts of the British Isles slowly morphed into an homogenous national bloc.   It was perhaps inevitable that one of those groupings would emerge as the more powerful partner and that, as history shows, was England.   And there has been resentment at that by all the other component nations almost continually since.

Yet there is some strength to be gleaned from national unity (as distinct from the attempted unity of different ethnic and social nations that the EU represents).  Britain's distinction derives almost entirely from its island geography, a separate landmass that has been developed and influenced in its growth by a plethora of pre-nation cultures - Roman, Saxon, Nordic, Norman - and in different ways by our lineage with the French.  All these have shaped the British and, in particular, the English (insofar as England was subject to all these influences consecutively whilst Scotland, Wales and Ireland were subjected to a lesser number of external cultural take-overs).   Our four nations are, as a result, very culturally different.  Yet today, we still squabble over sovereignty and the urge for independence and this almost tribal desire to go-it-alone and determine a solo future.

The bald reality is that economics plays a significant part in any quest for independence.  Politics and faux nationalism may be the flag waving and chanting front rank of their armies but economic inter-dependence is now ingrained in our joint financial affairs.  Money and wealth, as ever, is the glue that hold it together.  Without a sensible realisation of that, the individual nation states can chant and scream forever and, should they ever bring their independence about, would quickly find that life was not going to be suddenly transformed into a Garden of Plenty.   In world affairs (and we are everywhere inextricably bound into the capitalist, democratic ethos of the West), the UK is a small but still influential political and economic grouping.   Some would argue that we don't need to be a global influencer, or a player in the Big League and in some respects it would be better if we weren't aspiring to that status - BUT - we cannot avoid global economics.   Our development, our wealth and our joint sovereignty all rely upon global investment - particularly at this time following the worst of the pandemic - and our businesses need to trade internationally from a position of economic and political stability and growth.  If we accept the burden of capitalism then we are committed to the search for economic growth.   All of the UK's four nation states are utterly beholden to that creed even if they think that being independent will somehow magically launch them into some imagined New Age of prosperity.

It's a sad fact to concede, but money, wealth and prosperity all rule - and have done ever since recorded history began.  It is part of the human DNA which requires cooperation, collaboration, shared interests and objectives.   Nothing can prevent us from supporting our birth state and using this for competitive advantage, but for the United Kingdom, unity is the key to survival in a world where tribalism has shown us nothing but war and strife.