It would take real determination to conquer a nation so fortuitously endowed with such a natural defense.
Ever since Doggerland disappeared 8,000 years ago Great Britain has enjoyed a natural moat, one which has famously not been breached for coming on to close to a millennia. Britain ruled the waves for one reason; it had to, and it did so very effectively. For a very long time.
But in 1973 the country opted to loosen slightly some of its controls and join the European Common Market; a free trading club which had been going on since the end of the Second World War. Back then, as Europe struggled to deal with the utter destruction arising from two cataclysmic world wars, a common trading pact between the belligerent nations seemed a very good idea. To foster good relations and avoid another repeat of the previous thirty years. The integration of Europe was seen as the way forward, the thinking being that anything would be preferable to what had just happened.
Over the forty plus years since Britain joined the common market this exclusive club has morphed from a trade based union to something much more. It has grown up into the European Union and expanded geographically well beyond where anyone thought it would during its inception at the treaty of Rome. Its legislative reach has also expanded exponentially, to the point where politicians are complaining about having their hands tied and even a perceived challenge to the fundamental principle of self-determination has found its way into the everyday lexicon of our modern sound bite media.
So now, for the second time in two years, Britain will be holding a referendum on the question of integration or separation. In 2014 Scotland voted to remain part of the United Kingdom and in June this year the whole nation will be going to the polls again, this time to determine if the nation should remain a part of the European club, or not. The potential for Brexit, as its being called, is starting to gain momentum and in a few months from now the nation will have decided.
If Britain does decide to exit the EU the ramifications cannot be underestimated and I personally find myself in an uneasy situation.
Anyone who knows me knows I have an opinion on pretty much anything. I am very happy to spend time debating the pros and cons of most things. Sometimes I get the odd person who just disagrees with me and being devoid of any good argument simply resorts to Godwin’s law to end the discussion quickly but for the most part its normally good natured debate. I like that, it’s healthy and I am not, yet, so stuck in my ways to not change my opinion should a better argument win the day.
Two years ago I was very much opposed to Scotland voting to separate from the rest of the United Kingdom, I argued strongly and enjoyed the debate. It so happened that 55% of the population held a similar opinion and thus Scotland remained an integral part of the UK.
But now I am having second thoughts, I don’t like to admit it but I am grown up and ugly enough to do so. If I am wrong I will stand up and say so.
Let’s be clear, I still believe Scotland should be part of the UK and I firmly believe the UK is ‘Better together’. My second thoughts are nothing to do with the UK as an entity per se but very much to do with the desires of the majority of the Scottish population, which I believe are very much in favour of Scotland remaining an integral part of the European Union.
So let’s fast forward to June and let’s imagine the UK votes to exit. The current polls show that Scotland clearly, by a large margin, wants to remain with Europe so if this did happen it would be wholly undemocratic for the Scottish people. It would be England dragging Scotland out regardless of the wishes of the Scottish people.
I have, in the past, argued for the principle that we are all in it together when it comes to the whole of the UK being managed from Westminster regarding taxation, defence and most of the normal day to day activities of government.
Leaving the European Union is too big a decision and it flies in the face of this inclusive principle. If the Scottish nation were to be dragged out, not through their own choice, then I would find myself seriously questioning my own opinions from two years ago.
But what would happen next?
Well, I think the answer is pretty obvious and if you think about the consequences of Brexit it will quickly lead you down a Machiavellian rabbit hole.
The SNP also know what would happen if Scotland exits the EU because the majority in England voted for it, but the SNP are campaigning to stay in. Or are they?
This EU referendum is a gold-plated, perfume scented gift which has landed on their laps. They win if the UK stays, they win if the UK goes.
So again, really, how hard are they campaigning?
All the SNP would need is to show the majority of Scottish voters wanted to remain and in the blink of an eye we would see a second independence referendum on the table and this time around I would imagine, like me, a lot of the 55% who voted to remain would be having serious second thoughts.
In short, if Britain does decide to become an isolated Island nation once again I would immediately become a strong and vocal supporter for Scottish independence.
Building walls never helps. There are numerous historical and contemporary examples of this and I don’t need to explain why. Berlin, Gaza to name just two.
The EU is far from perfect, it costs its member states a lot of money to maintain and not every member plays by the rules. We all have immigration issues and we all face the same challenges. Britain has managed to negotiate a number of key opt out clauses through John Major and more recently with David Cameron. But even with these special privileges the situation is still far from perfect. I am fully cognisant of its flaws but the solution cannot be to pick up your ball and walk home, the solution has to be to fix it from within.
Whether in or out, Europe is, and will continue to be, vital to the prosperity of the UK and I would argue if you are trying to influence Europe then hiding behind a wall or a moat is probably not the best place to do it from.
So Britain still has its natural barrier but retreating behind it isn’t the answer and I can almost guarantee the Pandora’s box it will open will be almost impossible to close.
And I for one certainly don’t want to be going down that route.