Redefining the United Kingdom

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Not content with redefining marriage, as if this wasn’t presumptuous enough, the powers-that-be have now painted themselves into a corner, in which they may end up having to redefine the United Kingdom.  And this, to my horror, less than a year after I acquired the domain JohnAllman.UK for this blog.  And they will have to re-define the UK in such a way that an independent Scotland can remain in the UK, and hence in the EU, and in such a way that the British Commonwealth, like too many children nowadays, can have (so-to-speak) two mothers (i.e. mother countries).

IdeaWhen did the United Kingdom come into existence?  Was it in 1603, when James VI of Scotland started to wear a second crown on his one head?  Or was it in 1707, when the Scots and Westminster parliaments both voted to merge?

If the former, cannot Scots independence be viewed merely as redefining the UK to be the nation it was from 1603 to 1707?

I have not heard anybody comment upon the significance of a “yes” vote in the Scots referendum upon the Privy Council, for that matter.  Nor whether there will be two Royal Prerogatives in future.  And so on.

It is surely inconceivable that the monarch, to whom the armed forces swear allegiance, should have to risk the conflict of interests that allowing Scotland and the rest of us to have different foreign and defence policies might lead to, potentially finding ourselves on opposite sides in a future war.  We would not surely want the supreme commander of two armies, the constitutional monarch, on the advice of different ministers, to have to order two of her armies to fight one another.

(Before you say it, yes, I do realise that we are already at this risk in theory, in that we could get into a squabble with Canada.)

What we are going to need is a sort of meta-parliament of the UK, that decides those few policies, and enacts those few acts, that, subsidiarity notwithstanding, simply have to be decided at UK level, rather than in Scotland, England, or Wales, or Northern Ireland, or England-and-Wales-and-Northern-Ireland.

One cheap, fair and rational solution (which I remember thinking of when I was ten years old, in one of those “Why don’t they?” daydreams that children have) has surely always been to have only one parliamentary election.  (You may say I was a dreamer, but I wasn’t the only one.)

The Scots parliament thus becomes defined as the subset of MPs elected to Scottish seats of the UK Parliament, the English parliament becomes defined as the subset of MPs elected to English seats, the Welsh parliament becomes the subset of MPs elected to Welsh seats and the Northern Ireland parliament becomes the subset of MPs elected to Northern Irish seats.  There would also be a virtual parliament of Great Britain, all the MPs except those from Northern Ireland, an England-and-Wales parliament, and, theoretically, a Northern UK parliament, consisting of Scots and Northern Irish MPs, plus every other combination.

Presenting the same solution viewed from the opposite perspective, instead of defining (say) the Scots parliament as a subset of the UK parliament, the UK parliament could be defined as a union (in the sense of the word within the “set theory” of mathematics, sometimes called a “superset” by non-mathematicians) of the English, Welsh, Northern Irish and Scots parliaments, but with each MP casting a block vote equal to the population of his constituency in his one-of-four homeland, rather than a single vote.  Whichever of the four countries one lived in, one would only need to vote for a single MP, in that country’s own local parliament.  Synods (so-to-speak) of all or some or the four parliaments could meet at Westminster, sitting as the UK parliament, or as (say) the Great Britain parliament, etc.

Thus the unity of the UK would be maintained, in the eyes of (say) the EU (and the domain registrars who have me down as now owning a dot UK domain).  The four sub-nations of the greater nation would be being treated absolutely equally.  A great deal of money would be saved.  Exemplary subsidiarity would be achieved.

Little that affected (say) only Wales or Scotland would ever again need to be decided partly by English MPs, but the little that did still need to be decided at UK level could continue to be decided at UK level.

The EU would not be able to insist that Scotland applied for EU membership.  We could continue to have one currency. The banks with their headquarters in Scotland would not feel the need to evacuate to London in a panic.  Englishmen would not need work permits to work in a Scotland that had left the EU, and Scots would not need to be placed in no better a position than (say) Nigerians, if they wanted to work in Wales, or Germany for that matter.

By some combination of (1) allowing MPs to appoint proxies with (so-to-speak) power of attorney to speak for them and to vote for them in divisions, during proceedings in Cardiff, Edinburgh or at Stormont that they could not attend because of commitments in Westminster, or vice versa, and (2) glorified remote conferencing technology that the likes of British Telecom, Google and Microsoft would love to tender to provide, this is all a great deal more achievable (and cheaper than anything more complicated, that increases, or misses the opportunity to reduce, the population size of the political class) than it would have been in 1603, or 1707.

With a little ingenuity, a similar approach could be used with the non-elected House of Lords, to keep all of the various parliaments bicameral.

As usual, I dare say that there is something wrong with how I am thinking.  I need my commenters to tell me what is wrong with how I am thinking though.

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