It is now less than a year before the UK exits the EU. Time for another update on Brexit.
The United Kingdom
The United Kingdom has been in its present make up since 1922.
“The UK is a union of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.” The Commonwealth
The United Kingdom Government held a consultative referendum on membership of the EU on June 23rd 2016. Gibraltar was also included.
For the UK as a whole the result was as follows:
- Remain: 48.11%
The UK is,however, a union itself of 4 countries and the 4 countries had a different voting pattern.
England: Leave:53.38% , Remain: 46.62%
Scotland Leave:38%, Remain: 62%
Wales: Leave:52.53%, Remain: 47.47%
Northern Ireland: Leave: 44.22%, Remain:55.78%
This is important because on Thursday 29th March 2018 with one year to go the Prime Minister of the UK Government, at the time of writing Theresa May, made a fleeting visit to a factory in Scotland to reassure everyone that everything was fine.
So what has been finalised since the consultative referendum in June 2016 and with less than 1 year to go for a Brexit that 2 nations in the Union of Kingdoms did not vote for.
Well actually nothing.
There is a Draft Agreement which you can read about in more detail at: What’s in the Brexit Draft Agreement ? Usefully it is colour coded so that you can see all the parts where no agreement, draft or otherwise, has been reached.
On the 23rd of March 2018 the 27 EU leaders discussed and “welcomed the agreement reached by the negotiators on parts of the legal text of the Withdrawal Agreement, and adopted guidelines on with a view to the opening of negotiations on the overall understanding of the framework for the future relationship.” European Commission
In the Draft Agreement it is proposed that The UK Fishing industry is to stay in the Common Fisheries Policy for the whole of the transition period (December 31st 2020). The UK will have no official say in it but may be invited to participate. This is not a problem for the Union of Kingdoms as a whole as fishing is of very little importance. For Scotland it’s a huge issue as demonstrated by the map showing the territorial waters of the constituent parts of the UK.
In one part of the UK, Northern Ireland, it is proposed to have a different set up from all the other nations of the Union of Kingdoms. Northern Ireland will be sharing a land mass with an EU member.
It also has a negotiated Peace Agreement. The people of Northern Ireland and Ireland approved the Good Friday Agreement in a referendum in 1998.
The result to approve the Good Friday Referendum was :
Northern Ireland Yes: 71.12%, No: 28.88%
The result to approve the Nineteenth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland
Republic of Ireland Yes: 94.39%, no: 5.61%
The Good Friday Agreement as well as being a Peace agreement also set in place the devolution settlement for Northern Ireland. Many formal links were established between Northern Ireland and the Republic as part of the agreement. The situation between Northern Ireland (voting Remain) and Ireland takes up much of the Brexit Draft Agreement. It is proposed that they have a special relationship and one which the Scottish Government was told it was impossible to have for Scotland.
The story so far then is that we still do not know what will happen when the UK Government takes the 4 Kingdoms (and Gibraltar) out of the European Union on March 29th 2019.
The Parliament of Scotland and the Assembly of Wales have passed Continuity Bills to protect the devolved powers they have. Continuity Bills Passed in Scottish and Welsh Parliaments Northern Ireland is unable to do this as its Assembly is not sitting. The DUP, however, is in a ‘Confidence and Supply’ arrangement with the Tory Government with a pay out of £1billion tax payers money. (A reminder that the DUP campaigned for a No vote in the Good Friday Agreement referendum. )
This is a very strange union of 4 countries. The UK is the member state of the EU but it is itself made up of 4 nations: 2 of which voted to Remain. Even taking the UK vote as a whole it was a very narrow win for Leave.
The UK as a union of 4 nations established in 1922 may be nearing an end and ironically its demise brought about by unionist political parties. Theresa May might try to convince the press pack in the confines of an Ayrshire factory that everything is fine but clearly it is not. The Orkney News will continue to bring its readers updates as the Brexit breaking point edges ever nearer.
Reporter: Fiona Grahame