How Brexit will save the United Kingdom

Scotland and the other British nations share similar values
Leaving the EU should strengthen the United Kingdom – a multinational union Europe can only aspire to. Alex Carew, a London-based fund manager and economic historian, explains how.
It’s on the rocks. Again. Like all marriages, the union between Scotland and England has had its ups and downs. Along with Northern Ireland, Scotland voted to Remain in the 2016 referendum on our membership of the European Union; England and Wales voted to Leave. Brexit is a lever Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish National Party hope will prise Scotland out of the UK. The current chaos at Westminster isn’t exactly an inducement to stay. Who wouldn’t want a divorce from our political establishment?

Present political anarchy aside, however, Brexit could be just the aphrodisiac Scotland and England’s marriage could use – and not just because Brexit is a sobering reminder of the often appalling costs of divorce. After all, if you think that leaving the European Union after 40-plus years of membership has been bitter and damaging, imagine dissolving a far more complex, centuries-old marriage. Irish border problem? I’ll raise you a hard border across Great Britain and breaking up a currency union. Nor is it that Scottish independence outside the EU’s increasingly harmonised structures would be a considerably less practical undertaking, as the UK and Scotland wouldn’t automatically operate with the same rules.
Instead, all of us who believe in the United Kingdom should use Brexit as an opportunity to focus on what makes multinational unions work – because doing so highlights just how remarkable the UK actually is.
What makes a successful multinational union?
Here are some essential ingredients for a successful, sovereign multinational union: an effective single currency covering a highly integrated economic area, along with fiscal risk-sharing and wealth redistribution across that area (such as the Barnett formula governing public spending in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland). A comprehensive single market in goods and services is also a key requirement. Then you need a single, risk-free sovereign debt market; a banking union; a united foreign, security and defence policy; deep cultural and family ties; shared values; unlimited, uncontentious free movement of people; representative institutions with real power and (usually) popular legitimacy; a shared head of state; and similar legal traditions. A shared mother tongue is useful, too.
Tennis legend Roger Federer makes winning Grand Slams look so relaxed, it’s easy to forget the experience, training and skill required. Similarly, the UK makes being a multinational union look almost effortless. We certainly have our problems, not least the lopsided constitutional settlement bequeathed by New Labour in the late 1990s. But it is worth appreciating that the UK’s areas of greatest strength are often those of existential peril for the EU.

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