The aim of this paper is to understand aspect and consequences of the withdrawal from the European Union. This will be achieved by studying the concept of territorial field of tension, and how can used to better comprehend both the relationships and tensions at an intrastate level as well as at an interstate level. This reasoning will help us come to the following conclusion: The Brexit referendum has cleft the UK in twain. On one side the devolved nations of Scotland and Northern Ireland, and on the other Britain and Walles. All are split on how the UK should be run on both the intrastate and interstate level.
After multiple failed attempts to enter the European Economic Community, due to Charles de Gaulle’s constant veto, in the 1960s, the UK was finally admitted within the EU on 1st of January 1973. Yet just 43 years later, on the 23rd of June 2016, the UK decided, by mediums of a referendum more commonly known as Brexit, to leave the EU. The turnout of 72.2% (BBC, 2016) was even higher than that of the general election, showing just how important this matter was to the population. The final result, of 51,9% (BBC, 2016) for the leave, unearthed a division between the different states of the UK as Scotland and Northern Ireland both voted to remain. Since the referendum isn’t legally revoked the central government must invoke article 50 of the Lisbon treaty. This treaty signed by every member in 2007, proclaims that any member wishes to depart from the EU must first notify the European Council and has two years to negotiate its relations with the EU afterwards. Just after the results the UK seemed to be in utter pandemonium as the now former prime minister David Cameron resigned, the pound sterling hit its lowest value in history, and both Scotland and Northern Ireland were enraged by the results, and threatened to secede from the UK entirely.
It is this division that we will study. But before that we must understand what the territorial field of tension is as it is vital to the result of the Brexit referendum. The territorial field of tension illustrates the tensions generated by the antipodal forces of globalization and regionalization and how its repercussions on the global stage. Globalization is the force that pushes towards the interdependence of states on each other on a worldwide scale, whereas regionalization advocates for states to become more independent from each other. These forces often clash and when they do it determines wether the politics will be of integration or of fragmentation. It is based on four units: the state, the region, the union and the network, with the state being the main focus (Jönsson et al, 2000: 20-21). These four units are in constant competition with each other thus forging political tensions. However it seems that globalization and regionalization are not just clashing but also invigorating each other, as a surge in one is often coincides with surge in the other.
In order to fully understand Brexit must also understand the concept of a multinational state. A multinational state is a sovereign state comprised of two or more nations. There are two types of multinational states: the federal multi-nation state, and the Imperial multi-nation state. The federal multi-nation state is a state where all the nations are equal in power, influence, recognition. On the other hand the imperial state is a state where there is one specific and dominant nation, which tries to control this state, and at the same time the other nations (Tägil, 2001:20).
By utilizing these concepts we shall first discuss the relationship between Scotland and the UK. Afterwards we will study how the Brexit referendum was influenced by the territorial field of tension defined by Jönsson et al in Organizing European Space (2000) . Finally we will examine how the devolution of the UK affected the Brexit vote by studying two articles. The first Brexit: Its Consequences for Devolution and the Union written by Robert Hazell and Alan Renwick in May 2016 was meant to inform voters of possible outcomes of the referendum. The second Brexit and the transformation of British politic, published by Monitor 64 (Constitutional Unit, UCL) in October 2016, was meant to inform the public of what was the post-Brexit situation in the UK.Analysis
The division between Scotland and the other members of the UK isn’t new and can even be traced back to the Roman empire and its conquest of Britannia. Since they only joined the union in 1707 Scottish people formed a strong identity that still exists today, and is reflected in their culture and history. For example Scotland has had a number of strong independence movements since the 1960’s (Tägil, 2001:103), and in a referendum in 1997 voted with 74% of the votes to establish a separate Scottish government (Ralf Rönnquist, 2001, p. 103). However the UK is an imperial multination state which means that additionally to the domination and control one nation over others, in this case England, this nation will enforce a common identity, which is is why so many confuse ‘British’ as a synonym of ‘English’. This identity struggle lead to a referendum in 2014 where Scotland voted to stay in the UK with 55,3% of the votes (BBC, 2014). But since the UK is an imperial multination state it brings up the question of how the devolved nations are going to be represented through the Brexit process, as it seems pretty unlikely for them to be directly represented. In view of the close results of 51,9% for leave, and considering that Scotland and Northern Ireland both voted to a majority to remain with 62% and 55,8% respectively (BBC, 2016), it seems like one part of the UK is dragging the other to leave the EU. Robert Hazell hypothesized that this could lead to a second Scottish referendum (Robert Hazell and Alan Renwick, 2016:4)
However this is contradicted by the UCL’s article, as it believes Scotland will not automatically set in motion a second referendum (Monitor 64, Constitutional Unit, UCL, 2016:10). This is reinforced by the First minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon who said that “she would only hold a second referendum if there is clear and sustained evidence that the majority of people in Scotland want independence”(Monitor 64, 2016:4) . And even if Scotland does invoke the referendum and the results are a majority of leave, it would first of all cripple the UK not even mentioning the border, but most importantly Scotland would have to reapply for EU membership and might even have to enter the eurozone. This leaves the Scottish people with the dilemma of choosing between ‘British’ or ‘European’ identities.
Nevertheless the central government might realize the danger of Scotland leaving, and although very unlikely might surprise us by giving Scotland more autonomous rights which would allow Scotland to negotiate deals with the EU on its own (Monitor 64, Constitutional Unit, UCL, 2016:10). Furthermore “both theorists and politicians … recognize that a successful and stable union requires the inhabitants of the member states share, or develop a common, politically relevant identity. If they do not, the political framework for the democratic system will not be perceived as legitimate.” (Ralf Rönnquist, 2001, p. 104), This lack of representation and legitimacy might be the final nail in the coffin for Scotts to decide whether they stay in the UK or don’t.
This brings us to the territorial filed of tension. As discussed before the basic concept behind it is the clash between globalization and regional forces, between three territorial units (state, region and union) and autonomous networks. In our case the UK is the state and therefore our main focus. The Brexit referendum is theoretically part of the regionalization process on the interstate level as it would pass on power from the global level (EU) to the regional level (UK).
According to the pro leave parties Brexit was meant to grant the UK the freedom of not paying and following EU regulations. But as we saw later on those statements were grossly overinflated and sometimes outright false, as even if the UK didn’t have to follow EU regulations to produce goods it would have to do so in order to export and sell them to the EU. This would hurt the devolved nation of Scotland deeply as “international exports to countries within the EU (European Union) were estimated at £12.3 billion, which is 43% of total international exports.” (statistics of the Scottish government, 2017). As UK politics move towards regionalization on the interstate level and with time decrease their interdependence on the EU, it looks as if on the intrastate level the UK is split between both globalization and regionalization. Being a multination state, I would seem like its politics should tend to globalize, but after the Brexit referendum some of the devolved nation under its rule are more reluctant on this matter. The union could be put under strain by the distinctive wills of its different nations, which could have a tendency to wind up noticeably more capable districts. Due to Brexit, a more grounded strain amongst regionalization and globalization has developed. Scotland as a devolved state is tending towards a more stronger association with the European Union and the European single market. Because of the absence of consistency of union and express, the areas could acquire significance and power for their citizens amid the Brexit procedure. Be that as it may, the likelihood of Scotland searching out its own relations with the EU on its own is far more probable than Scottish freedom starting at least at that time.
However that doesn’t mean that there is no globalization taking place. The process of globalization can also be seen on the intrastate level, both in Northern Ireland and Scotland because of the need to protect the interdependence between their countries and the EU, and in the UK who still needs to keep up some sort of relationship with the EU as made clear by the alternative of a “soft” Brexit. This would imply that the UK would endeavor as it would keep its association with the EU as resemblant as those before the Brexit vote as possible. And in some way the UK trying to globalize itself from within, as its goal is for all of its comprising nations to be interdependent and enhance relations with each other, therefore making the UK self-sufficient.
The Brexit vote has awakened some strong tensions within the UK. However we have seen that those tensions did not just appear out of nowhere, but where rather the work of centuries of division, unification, misrepresentation, etc. The devolved nations who have only recently started to seek some power and recognition are now being forced out of a union they considered beneficial to them, and probably won’t get a say in the negotiations. For these reasons some of the devolved nations rejected the outcome of the referendum outright, some even went as far as threatening to secede. In order to deal with these tensions the UK must understand that its union is fragile at the moment and that must attend to the fact that half of the Union is willing to become independent if a decision, in which they have a say, is not made.
This could be solved by representing the devolved nations during the negotiations, or giving them the right to negotiate deals on their own. But this seems to be a difficult thing to achieve as that would mean giving up some power to the devolved nations, and therefore moving ever closer to a federal multination state. As of now nothing has been changed on this matter and the tensions continue to rise, as just a week ago Scotland pushed for staying in the single market (Reuters, 2018). Either way if nothing is done Scotland might leave the UK and Northern Ireland could reunify with the rest of Ireland, destroying the UK for good. It’s quite ironic that a state (itself a union) seceded from a union in a move of regionalization, in order to achieve globalization within its own union. But did not see coming that some of its states might move towards regionalization themselves, in order to globalize once independent.