Irish unity would be fair, but also destabilising

Sinn Féin is set to be the largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly, after the results in local elections that took place in the United Kingdom on May 5.

What has happened pushes the UK towards a perhaps inevitable breakup, as Sinn Féin has long sought a united island of Ireland, which would be noble if they can secure majority support in Northern Ireland for it.

A return to Great Britain?

The people of Britain actually have no need for Ireland. If we were to lose Northern Ireland, the imposing name of the “Kingdom of Great Britain” (or just Great Britain) could be restored as the official one, as could the flag of 1707-1801, which British troops carried to war against America and France. Such days were hardly those of a lesser power, as we are now.

Even if things went a step further, and Scotland was also to gain independence, England would likely remain a powerhouse, keeping the neighbouring countries in its influence, unless the European Union was to actively work against such sway

Unionist backlash

The only peril may come from unionists in Northern Ireland, and their ties to that land, in the event that they refuse to accept the breakup of the country they were loyal to. Political radicals and aggrieved parties often end up punching above their weight, and it is not atypical that they can take a whole country hostage with their politics.

As well as a surge in violence taking place within a united Ireland, possibly drawing in outside forces such as the European Union, there is a greater risk of political radicals fleeing Northern Ireland to assume huge influence within the newly diminished Great Britain. Should anything atrocious befall the unionists residing in the united Ireland, or even a murmur of it, it would result in radical transformations of opinion in Great Britain, creating increasingly hostile English feelings towards Ireland and its EU backers. As well as undermining Scottish independence (assuming Irish unity occurs first), a wave of unionism finding a home in Great Britain could also be big enough to turn policy in London in an aggressive or revanchist direction. If Scotland in turn got independence, further flight of radical British nationalists into England could make them even more concentrated and capable of influencing London.

The return of England

In the most extreme course of future events, breakup could result in an English war not just with Scotland and Ireland but, by proxy, with old enemies like France, Spain and Germany via the European Union as the Scots and Irish will warm to them rather than the ostracised England.

The war on Russia's periphery in Ukraine exposes new vulnerabilities for all nuclear-armed powers, revealing that they are not as invulnerable as they had assumed and that the victors of the Second World War have no guarantee of security. Having a nuclear deterrent doesn't prevent conflict being actively inflamed by outside competitors on your doorstep, or result in the adjacent non-nuclear power standing down if you use force. The informal understanding that nuclear powers cannot incite a proxy to directly attack each other's territory and infrastructure is also gone, now. Now, everyone will be just expected to refrain from using nuclear weapons, as long as sneaky enough methods are being used to kill us and there is not a direct clash. This change may cause huge displeasure to Britain in the future, since it creates new rules that put the country in a new state of vulnerability. It allows the peril of a return to past ages, when Scotland was eligible as a French proxy against England.

Restored medieval conflicts

The idea of an English-EU clash reigniting Medieval-era tensions may seem farfetched, but it is not. Medieval leaders were not less civilised or educated in statehood than modern leaders. Some conflicts are inevitable, just because of the configuration of pieces on the board.

England has a much vaster population than Scotland or Ireland. It is not too hard to predict, if the UK breaks up, that these countries will be afraid and possibly even hateful of the economically and militarily giant England after being estranged from it. The temptation to bring in France or other European powers as protectors, and English resentment at this course of events, would be almost inevitable.

Nationalism, however benign at first, can unleash unpredictable and long-buried forces, as it did after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It can create opportunities for outside interference that will jeopardise a country’s security.

When an arrangement works peacefully, like the Union, it is best to treasure it and not to change it, even if we would personally prefer things to be different. This is the same case with the monarchy.