Wednesday, May 18, 2016
An economist has suggested that a British exit from the European Union could lead to a united Ireland
David McWilliams said that if Britain votes to leave the European Union "it could start a domino effect - at the end of which is a united Ireland". McWilliams also said that he believed "unionists have now an economic incentive to join a united Ireland because the union is impoverishing them". McWilliams says that "Here is the possible scenario that will unfold if there’s a break-up of the UK. The English lead the British out of Europe. The Scottish then go to the polls again, wanting to stay in Europe. They have to leave the UK to stay in the EU, and by a small margin they vote to stay in Europe but leave the English. Not unfeasible. The rump UK becomes an entity involving a eurosceptic England, a modestly pro-European but compliant Wales and an ever-divided Northern Ireland. However it is a Northern Ireland shorn of its fraternal brothers, the Scots – in a union with the ambivalent English. There has never been the same cultural affinity between the English and the Northern Unionists. Unlike many Southerners, my bonds with that part of the world are strong. Ethnically, without Scotland, the union of Northern Ireland and a multicultural but nationalistic little England is not particularly coherent. All the while, the demographic forces are on the side of nationalism." The economist and broadcaster suggested that "the union has been an economic calamity for everyone in the North". "Well, in the distant past, there was good reason to believe that the union preserved living standards in the north, but this is a myth and has not been the case since 1990," he says. "Indeed, the end of the Troubles, which should have marked the resurgence of the relative performance of the north, has actually delivered the opposite. Relative to the south, the northern economy has fallen backwards since the guns were silenced. If there was an economic peace dividend, it went south. Now with Brexit looming and the concrete and more profound underlying changes in demography, the issue of a united Ireland may be back on the table quicker than most of us imagined - or cared to dread." He added: "Interestingly, unionists have now an economic incentive to join a united Ireland because the union is impoverishing them, but I suspect they'd prefer to get poor in a semi-detached UK rather than join a much more coherent all-Ireland economic endeavor."