By Joe Harker
Is leaving the European Union so important that it would be worth abandoning the United Kingdom? That's the question lurking at the back of Brexit proceedings. There have been plenty of warnings that a hard Brexit could threaten the Union and be a "disaster on the scale of the Suez Canal".
Scotland certainly wants to stay in the EU, with a majority of the population voting to Remain. The European Union was also a key component of the Scottish independence referendum held in 2014. One of the main features of the campaign to stick with the UK was that independence meant leaving the EU. Scotland planned to reapply for entry in the event of independence and they do not want a situation where they are out with no intention to get back in.
Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon backs another referendum on Brexit, though the Daily Telegraph reports that it could be "all but impossible" to hold another vote before March 29, 2019 when the UK is due to leave. They cite a report from University College London that suggests it would take 22 weeks to have another referendum and the earliest possible date would be May 2019.
Brexit could also throw the peace process in Northern Ireland into jeopardy. The Good Friday agreement and the lack of a border underpinned by EU membership have created a situation that all sides can accept, but with the UK leaving the EU the prospect of a border being put up rises sharply. The UK doesn't want one, but practically every scenario the Tories have presented requires a border or for the EU to ignore many of its own rules and allow Britain to cherry pick what it wants.
A survey of English Tory voters from the Centre on Constitutional Change found that "clear majorities of English Conservatives" would accept Scotland and Northern Ireland leaving the UK if it meant Brexit went ahead. The survey found that 73 per cent of Tory voters in England believed "the unraveling of the peace process in Northern Ireland" was worth Brexit, while 77 per cent would say Scottish independence was an acceptable outcome if Brexit happened.
If that is the case then a significant portion of English voters might be happy to kill the UK if it meant they got Brexit. Scotland wants either another Brexit referendum or a vote on independence. Dragging Northern Ireland out of the EU could make a united Ireland inevitable in the long run.
Perhaps this is why prime minister Theresa May is so desperate to cling on to her Chequers plan that has been dismissed as unworkable with EU rules. She believes a Canada style deal would break up the UK and a no deal Brexit could be even worse. Her Chequers plan is unworkable but the basic idea of not having a border in Northern Ireland would go a long way towards keeping them in the UK. Nobody wants to be the prime minister who presided over the death of the UK, but pushing forward with Brexit may ensure it happens.