Brexit set to trigger votes on break-up of United Kingdom

Brexit is supposed to reset Britain's place in the world but has instead widened domestic divisions

ABERDEEN, SCOTLAND - OCTOBER 15: Delegates listen to Nicola Sturgeon First Minister of Scotland and leader of the SNP as she addresses the party autumn conference on October 15, 2019 in Aberdeen, Scotland.  Addressing the SNPs autumn conference at The Event Complex Aberdeen (TECA), the First Minister told delegates that an independent Scotland could act as a "bridge between the EU and the UK" and be a "magnet for global investment". (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
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Under pressure from the Brexit turmoil, the separate nations that make up the United Kingdom could split apart.

The constituent parts of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland make up the modern UK but two of these vote against Brexit. Now there is focus of whether Britain's departure from the EU will trigger national disintegration.

Scotland has been put on notice that its devolved government is hungry for a new referendum on independence. A vote in 2014 was lost by a margin of 55 per cent to 45 per cent. The Scottish then voted by a margin of 62 per cent to 38 per cent to stay in the EU in 2016 but Britain as a whole opted to leave by 52 per cent to 48 per cent.

Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister, accused the British government led by Boris Johnson of riding roughshod over Scotland in its drive to leave the EU by October 31.

"Scotland – its people, its government, its parliament, has been disregarded and disrespected by the UK Government," she declared at a party conference this week.

"My call is that the referendum must happen next year," she said, adding that legal preparations were under way for the vote and would be completed in the new year.

"Before the end of this year, I will demand the transfer of power that puts the legality of a referendum beyond any doubt."

Downing St has rejected the demand but the failure to heal the wounds over Brexit is likely to see a confrontation over the issue rise up the political agenda in the months ahead.

The position of Northern Ireland is driven by the same divergent result of the referendum in 2016. The leave/remain split was 55/45. Northern Ireland has been pitched to the numb of the Brexit negotiations because it is the only land border with the EU.

The 1998 Belfast or Good Friday Agreement held that all border impediments between the UK-run territory and the Republic of Ireland should be removed. This deal was struck when the EU was already an established single market.

Northern Ireland residents fear the loss of basic rights, entitlements along with the introduction of barriers to trade and labour movements.

The number of people in Northern Ireland applying for Irish passports, which allow for work and travel rights across the EU, has spiked to 49,000 in the first nine months of this year. That is more than double the figure for all of 2016 from the 1.5 million residents.

A poll by the Conservative former deputy chairman Michael Ashcroft found a 51 per cent to 49 per cent split in favour of unification with Ireland, the first major opinion exercise to return a majority for leaving the UK.

Wales and England were and are united by Brexit. The changing politics around the issue has seen a slump in Labour support in Wales. The Welsh Political Barometer Poll has shown as Conservative lead in the nation that has traditionally been a Labour stronghold. The party led its rival by 29 per cent to 25 per cent in the latest results released this week.

Another poll last month found just 24 per cent support in Wales for eventual independence.

in a briefing paper released this month, the Centre on Constitutional change predicted there would be votes in Northern Ireland and Scotland on independence that would trigger upheaval no matter what the outcome. This is especially true if there is a Brexit without a deal with the EU.

"No deal has the potential to bring a growing set of conflicts and tensions within its territorial constitution to a head," it said. "And this prospect needs to be brought more squarely, and given fuller consideration, within the increasingly intense debates about Brexit.