[...] A realignment will be much easier for voters in Wales and Scotland. Here, a significant proportion of the electorate see their main identity coming from their separate status as countries, and not from being British. Greater integration in Europe is for them the easiest way they can separate themselves from the Union. They wish to become sovereign powers in a greater Europe.
What then will there be left of the Union? For the English, the question of the great institutions that have bound the United Kingdom together, and particularly the monarchy, will be issues they will find hardest to solve. The new EU treaty will put a European President on offer for those parts of the realm wishing to separate themselves from England. As constituent parts of the United Kingdom move to independence, will they want to find a new role for the monarchy in their affairs? If the answer is no, how do the English safeguard an institution that has been so clearly part of their identity?
Immigration will give a further twist to this debate on identity. It has been mainly to England that the great waves of post-war immigration have come. Until recently, British governments of both parties tried to limit the scale of immigration, accepting that there could come a point where the sheer weight of numbers threatens the identity of the host country. Maastricht dismantled these controls, by insisting on the free movement of labour as well as capital. The free movement of labour meant little, initially, as the living standards of countries before the EU enlargement were at least in striking distance of each other.
That became far from true with the enlargement of the EU eastwards. Living standards, one tenth of ours, have resulted in the largest influx of immigrants into our country in our history, and within the matter of a few years.
Most of these new arrivals share the same understanding that comes from once being part of Christendom. Not so for many of the earlier waves of Commonwealth immigrants who eagerly came to Britain to work and prosper. They were met by a political elite who were too busy or careless to define what it was to be British. A significant proportion of these earlier arrivals were never told how to sign up to be British, let alone what a British identity entails. A nation's identity and citizenship are closely interwoven. It is on this front that the Government must act on how to run being English and British at one and the same time. Read more