David Hamill: A Celtic Union as a Brexit alternative?

One young rugby fan displays his solidarity with fellow Celts. Picture: Paul Chappells/TSPL

One young rugby fan displays his solidarity with fellow Celts. Picture: Paul Chappells/TSPL

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The likelihood of a hard Brexit and the prospect of a second referendum on Scottish independence mean that once again we are living in ­uncertain times. I have no clear idea of how the UK will look in two years’ time, but an intriguing possibility occurs to me.

For the sake of argument, let us assume that the UK leaves the EU without any agreement on the ­single market or free trade, and let’s also assume that Scotland votes in favour of independence, whenever the referendum takes place. In this scenario, is it impossible to imagine a new United Kingdom, embracing Scotland, the whole of Ireland and Wales – a Celtic Union?

Immediately one can think of any number of hurdles and barriers, some seemingly insurmountable – but is it entirely out of the question? In the short term, probably, but in the longer term, maybe not.

This proposal would in all probability entail the reunification of ­Ireland. Such a move would be vociferously opposed by Protestant Unionists in Northern Ireland and quite possibly reopen old wounds which have started to close.

The renewal of hostilities would be a matter for considerable regret. However, Sinn Fein has been gaining political ground recently and it is not impossible to envisage the time when the question of reunification might be put to the vote.

Add to this the fact that Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU, a factor which might be in favour of union with a country that is already a member state. The other alternative is that the north and south of Ireland join this union as separate entities, but it is difficult to see the advantages for the south in such an arrangement.

What about Wales? It is perfectly understandable that there would be a reluctance to vote for independence given the economic vulnerability of such a small country. To be fair, they did vote, albeit narrowly, in favour of Brexit.

But, if the possibility existed to join a union which politically and culturally would be more in tune with Welsh heritage, aspirations and sensibilities, then that prospect becomes much less outlandish.

As things stand, there would appear to be little appetite for independence in Wales. The last opinion poll I could unearth suggested that, if there is a hard Brexit, 28 per cent would vote for independence, a long way short of the 50 per cent needed. However, it might be useful to bear in mind that the 28 per cent figure is identical to the base from which the Yes campaign started in Scotland before the 2014 referendum.

Many will regard the above proposition as fanciful dreaming and, as things stand at the moment, it probably is. However, we live in increasingly uncertain times and in many respects we are in uncharted waters. Consequently we can rule nothing out. The balls have been thrown up into the air and we really have no idea where they are going to land.

David Hamill is a retired teacher. He lives in East Linton, East Lothian.

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