Chris Deerin, writing for CapX, has an article titled England will be torn apart by the EU referendum. The setup is this: Prime Minister David Cameron promised a few years ago that were he reelected Prime Minister (i.e., were his party reelected to sufficient strength that it could at least form a coalition government and he selected Prime Minister), he’d hold a Great Britain-wide referendum by the end of 2017 on whether Great Britain should leave the European Union. In the event, Cameron’s party was reelected to an outright majority, he was selected to be Prime Minister, and he’s moving to keep his promise: Great Britain will hold the promised referendum by the promised deadline.
Deerin is concerned, as you might discern from his article’s title. Actually holding the referendum, he fears, will mean the end of Great Britain regardless of the outcome.
Below is a letter I wrote to CapX demurring from Deerin’s position.
I don’t share your concern for a couple of reasons. In no particular order: what the pols in London think isn’t particularly relevant (Cameron has no plan, by the way? Not so much: he made a promise, and he intends to keep it; that his party has changed, or is changing, its collective mind isn’t important to honoring a commitment.) The question is for individual Brits: how do they see themselves? Your existential question, indeed: who are they?
Second, say the referendum does rend Great Britain. That works out to Scottish independence, no small matter to a significant per centage of Scots.
Third, consider the alternative: no referendum, and Great Britain stays in the EU. Our own John Jay expressed concern during the ratification debates that were our Constitution accepted as it was written, the States would bear the same relationship to the central government that counties have to a State: just political subdivisions that exist solely to ease the carrying out of the State’s decisions. That’ll be the fate of Great Britain if there’s no referendum or if the referendum supports staying in the EU.
Finally, dissolution: the recently completed referendum on Scottish departure from the Union was most enthusiastically argued. There is considerable angst among those whose position was voted down. They’re recovering, and the Union remains sound.
So it will be with Great Britain following the larger referendum, regardless of its outcome. Except that voting to leave will be a stout blow for British liberty.