Brexit vote turmoil provides a case study for Canadian unity

With Canada Day coming this Friday and in light of recent international events and the subsequent turmoil, this particular week and this particular Canada Day are unique vantage points from which to examine the advantages of being a citizen of this undivided country.

This Friday, the 149th anniversary of Confederation in 1867, we can give thanks that our country remains whole, from sea to sea to sea to Great Lakes coastline, and that we have survived two referenda (1980 and 1995) on the separation of the province of Quebec.

This is particularly relevant just now in view of the turmoil that Great Britain’s referendum vote to leave the European Economic Community (EEC) has engendered since the announcement late last Thursday night that the vote had gone to the “exit” side by a margin of 52 percent.

Very quickly, the Scottish First Minster announced that her Scottish Nationalist Party would be pushing for another referendum on independence, based on the fact that Scots had overwhelmingly voted in the poll of all of Great Britain on the EEC question, to remain a part of the European community. If Scotland declares independence, she will claim substantial offshore natural gas reserves as her own.

In 2014, a separation referendum failed among Scots but next time, and Scotland’s First Minister has seized this opportunity to again fuel Scottish nationalism, the betting is now that Scotland will secede from Great Britain, become its own country and remain within the EEC.

Similarly, the “loyal counties” of Ulster in Northern Ireland, also part of Great Britain, were quickly courted by the neighbouring and much larger Republic of Ireland in another attempt to make both the south and the north of Ireland one nation.

There is also a distinct possibility that this can take place, even after the last century’s international strife and violence along religious lines because, since the Irish Republic is a member of the EEC and so too has Great Britain been, the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland has been invisible since the Good Friday Accord that effectively ended the violence along the border.

People from Northern Ireland have gotten into the habit of shopping and working in the Republic. But when Northern Ireland, as a part of Great Britain, finally exits the EEC, there will be passport issues at border crossings, and the border will once again become a “hard” one.

The Northern Ireland vote favoured Great Britain remaining within the EEC so, like Scotland, Northern Ireland will in all likelihood consider its options.

Nationhood on its own would not be feasible but joining with the Republic could be.

That would leave England and Wales, the remaining two parts of the Great Britain family, to go it alone.

In Canada, we have avoided the dislocation that will most certainly come to define what we still call Great Britain for the next few years but if Scotland goes on its own, the concept of “Great Britain” will be very much diminished. Even the Union Jack, the flag whose horizontal, vertical and diagonal stripes are an amalgamation of the flags of the unique parts of Great Britain, would become symbolically redundant.

This Canada Day, we can certainly learn a great deal from the mistakes that British Prime Minister David Cameron and his Conservative government made in calling this unnecessary referendum that will, in all likelihood, serve to end their country as they know it.

The chaos and turmoil we’re seeing globally as the fallout from the Brexit vote must be taken as a warning by those in this country, especially in Quebec, who would consider trying once again to take this province out of the federation and set up shop as a sovereign nation.