Choose your devils

I mentioned the Brexit-melodrama in Undemocratic drama queens and it just seems to be getting worse. Brexit clearly came as a shock, but I don’t understand why it would when the polls showed a close race. Norwegian papers reported today that a majority of voters in Scotland want a new referendum, the one they had two years ago when they decided to remain a part of UK. Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, also claims they have the moral right to veto Brexit because the Scots want to stay in the EU. They are desperate to leave one union so they can become a part of a bigger one. I have a friend in the USA who said that this was like replacing one slave master with another one. I think she has a point.

How would life be like inside the EU? Business for Scotland made a list of five reasons why Scotland would manage very well outside the UK. That explanation may seem reasonable, but everything is going to change when they are on their own. Scotland would have to negotiate with UK about the cost, and they would have to pay quite a bit. Scotland has significant natural resources such as oil and timber, but these were developed by the United Kingdom. They were not developed by an independent Scotland, so they can’t expect to leave the union without paying for it.

It’s easy to assume that oil and natural gas is guaranteed to get you out of any trouble, but we are going through a period with a lot of uncertainty on the market. I don’t know if that is the reason, but Scotland had a deficit of £ 15 billion last year, which was proportionately twice the size of UK’s. Scotland is a big provider of financial services, but a vast majority of the banks’ customers live south of the border. As a smaller economy the Scots would most likely have to face higher interest rates, higher taxes, higher costs and more financial instability.

Glen Lyon from the oil company BP recently spent a few weeks at the ship yard in my hometown. It's pumping oil near Shetland now.
Glen Lyon from the oil company BP recently spent a few weeks at the ship yard in my hometown. It’s pumping oil near Shetland now.

I can understand their desire to be independent, although they’ll probably be less so as an independent country in the EU, but I wonder how realistic it is right now. You can’t just knock on a door and say that you want to become a member of EU. For starters you have to fulfill the Copenhagen criteria, as well as get the agreement from all the existing members. It’s not that obvious that they would be welcomed. There are many countries in Europe with a region that wants independence, such as Catalonia and Basque country in Spain, Sardinia in Italy or even Jämtland in Sweden. The latter is one of two Swedish counties that used to be a part of Norway. I can’t see Spain being willing to encourage Scotland to seek independence because that could easily set a presedence that could tear their own country apart.

In addition, Scotland may not seem like a desirable member because they would need a lot of support for a number of years. Scotland has major problems with inequality, and BBC reported last year that half a million (including 100 000 children) live in severe poverty. People are defined as being in severe poverty if the household income is less than 50 % of the UK average. That could become a democratic problem.

Politicians in Northern Ireland seem to have the same hopes as their Scottish colleagues. They want to remain in the EU because they don’t want to be ruled by the English. This is an old conflict, and I understand them just as much as the Scots, but is it realistic? I haven’t done any research on Northern-Ireland, but according to the Wikipedia article I quickly browsed, most industry has been replaced by services, mainly the public sector. They don’t seem to be very desirable to the other countries in EU, and are they going to desire EU when they have to accept immigration from other EU-countries?

These are just some initial thoughts I had after hearing the reactions to Brexit in Scotland and Northern-Ireland. These two countries have a lot of negative feelings about England, but I think it would be wise to remember a popular proverb from the English-speaking world: Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.

EU immigration to the UK
Scotland’s deficit
Scottish economy to be hit by oil price collapse

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