The final round of trade negotiations on Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union began on June 2, but British officials may have greater problems at home. United States Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his government’s lack of response to the coronavirus pandemic have been sharply criticized across the political spectrum, possibly providing further impetus for Scottish independence and the Irish unification movement.
For many nationalists in Northern Ireland, this pandemic revealed the folly of running two separate health and political administrations on the same island, and, for them, this strengthened their demand for integration. “The behavior and interests of the British government have caused many people to think and review and analyze whether their best interests are served by that,” said Niall O Donnghaile, a spokesman uniting Ireland and Brexit for the pro-unification of the Sinn Fein party. “All this certainly points to a greater manifestation of the argument for unity.”
In Scotland, a YouGov poll conducted in January found the majority of Scots who supported independence for the first time since 2015. Each district in Scotland chose to remain part of the European Union in 2016, and Brexit has forced some people to change their minds on questions about Scottish Independence . With the support of independence in a knife edge, even small changes in public opinion caused by this pandemic can be decisive.
Even so, plans to hold a second vote on this issue by 2020 have been postponed for now, and Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, “struggles to separate public health issues from constitutional issues,” said Nicola McEwen, a territorial political professor at University of Edinburgh and one of the directors of the Center for Constitutional Change.
The UK documented the first COVID-19 case confirmed on January 31, but the government has been slow to implement an effective response. Even when neighboring countries closed public spaces and enforced social distance regulations, London opted for a laissez-faire approach; That he said preferably leaving the country open to intentionally infect parts of society, thereby allowing populations to develop herd immunity over time. This idea was dropped after a shocking report from epidemiologists at Imperial College London predicted that without mitigation measures, the virus could kill more than half a million people in Britain alone.
The government is constantly criticized for apparently not taking public health seriously, and ultimately succumbing to pressure. On March 23rd, Johnson was announced the immediate closure of all unnecessary business, placing it in line with most other European regions, but only after a prolonged delay that may have been fatal. The last line ends Dominic Cummings—One of the prime minister’s trusted confidants Johnson refused to resign from after it was revealed that he had deliberately violated the government’s own coronavirus guidelines – emphasizing the lack of seriousness in London and reinforcing the image of an incompetent British government that is struggling through another crisis. .
The Irish government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic is very different from the British pandemic. Less than two weeks after reporting the first COVID-19 case confirmed on February 29, officials moved quickly to close all schools, universities and child care facilities. A few days later, they canceled all of St.’s Day celebrations. Patrick throughout the country, and leaders canceled their annual vacation visits to Washington. The authorities have imposed strict social distance regulations throughout the crisis.
On the night of St. Patrick, Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s prime minister, guaranteed “Everyone who lives in the shadow of what is coming – we are with you” in a widely celebrated speech for a nation that receives praise from the entire political spectrum. Even Jamie Bryson, a prominent loyalist activist known for his strong opposition to Irish unity, gave praise to the leader, call it’s “a‘ their opponents at the beach level speeches “. Decisive strong leadership. Call for them in his country. “
Public health is a problem that occurs in England, which means it is under the authority of local governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. But without a clear direction coming from London, the Northern Irish parties are left divided over the best way to respond to the plague, taking a stance that is strongly influenced by their respective views on the country disputed constitutional questions.
Sinn Fein – the country’s largest nationalist party, which seeks to unite Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland – urged the government to adopt the Dublin approach. The Democratic Unionist Party – the largest trade union party in the country, which seeks to maintain unity with Britain – is deferred to the British government. The result is a confused and disjointed approach that is only resolved when London finally takes action.
Northern Ireland’s public attitude towards the British government’s response was very negative. According to recently LucidTalk Poll, 65 percent of respondents believe that the British government has handled emergencies poorly. “People are really frustrated by the slow approach of the British government,” said Cliona McCarney, a communications worker for the nationalist Social Democratic and Labor Party. “We always thought it would be bad, but maybe worse than we could have anticipated.”
Instead, poll to show that a large majority of the public admired both the Irish government’s response and the leadership of Varadkar, figures which included a large number of union members.
But experts tell Foreign policy that one must be careful in assuming too much meaning in the public reaction to the corona virus. “There is a very important difference to be made,” said Dawn Walsh, a political professor at University College Dublin and an expert in Northern Ireland, “between having a friendly and cooperative relationship with your neighbors and having a change in ideas about whether you want to break away from your current political union and join your neighbors. “Unionists, he said, have fostered a close working relationship with the Irish government for years now.
Even so, this pandemic is part of a broader trend that seems to suggest the public is warming up to the idea of unity. Northern Ireland voted by a slim majority to remain in the European Union in the June 2016 Brexit referendum, sparking calls for unification with the republic as a way to maintain the country’s EU membership.
In the UK general election in December 2019, nationalist politicians won more seats than trade unions for the first time in the country’s history, and in February, Sinn Fein gained international attention when the party withdrew one seat to become the largest party in the Irish parliament . Now it is likely to lead the opposition to the next government in Dublin.
The poll paints an ambiguous picture of the level of support for Irish unity, and different survey results can depend greatly on a variety of factors, including how the question is framed. Opinion poll done by the University of Liverpool in December 2019 showed that only 28.3 per cent of respondents believed that unification should be a long-term policy of Northern Ireland. However, when asked in February how they would vote if a border poll (referendum on Irish unity) was held the following day at a LucidTalk Poll, 45.4 percent said they would choose a united Ireland.
Pandemic is understood more as one part of a broader paradigm shift, rather than as an agent for change itself. “There is an increasing chance that there will be border polls and that border polls will pass especially since the Brexit referendum, the rise of British nationalism, and Boris Johnson became prime minister,” Walsh said.
As O Donnghaile, a spokesman for Sinn Fein, said: “When you see Brexit, when you see [the British government’s] In response to COVID, how can you not go back and reevaluate some pretty basic things? “
This pandemic has also relieved the differences in leadership styles shown by Johnson and Sturgeon. The British prime minister has been criticized for his confusing message and breezy approach in the early days of the pandemic, which missed five US emergency committee meetings. Sturgeon, by contrast, seems serious but firm in his public comments, thank you the public for their collective efforts to help slow the spread of the virus.
As Britain slowly began to emerge from the lockdown, the parliament and assemblies it delegated in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland all proved to be more cautious than Westminster. In May, when Johnson announced that restrictions would begin to subside in England as infection rates began to fall, Sturgeon urged people in Scotland to stay at home.
As in Northern Ireland, polls have revealed that the Scots have a dim view of handling Johnson’s pandemic. While 78 percent of people in Scotland think that the government in Edinburgh has handled the crisis well, only 34 percent said the same thing about Westminster. Comparing the performance of each leader, the gap widens, because 82 percent believe Sturgeon has handled the pandemic well, compared to 30 percent who said the same thing about Johnson.
The Scottish public always values its own government higher than that of Westminster. “This is the Scottish government itself, there is a little hello around it,” said John Curtice, a political professor at the University of Strathclyde, but the difference shows that the Scottish government’s actions are approaching public opinion.
Experts who speak Foreign policy said it was too early to say how this might shape public attitudes towards Scottish independence, if at all. “It’s not all about the constitution in Scotland,” McEwen, professor at the University of Edinburgh.
But it has become clear how a shadowing pandemic and economic crisis can provide food for debate both for and against Scottish independence. Supporters might argue that if Scotland became independent, lockdown could be applied more quickly, while those who supported it anyway in the UK could demonstrate the economic benefits of staying in union as an economic consequence of an increasing pandemic.
“It will be argued by those on the union side that the ability of the United States to waste large amounts of government resources to keep the economy afloat will be far more difficult for Scotland to achieve,” Curtice said.
Fears of economic uncertainty proved decisive in the 2014 independence referendum in which 55 percent of voters chose to remain as part of the United Kingdom. As the global economy staggers on the brink of disaster, it will be more difficult to persuade voters in Scotland to break away from Westminster.broad shoulders. “
“For the most part, dire economic conditions are not the best basis for conducting an independence campaign,” McEwen said. “That would be normal, but of course we also have Brexit.”
Britain is second only to the United States in the number of deaths from the corona virus, and grieving relatives and doctors have requested an inquiry into the government’s response. But because of missteps carried out across the country, there may be limits to the extent that the delegated government can blame Westminster. “All governments have a track record that is difficult to maintain,” Curtice said.
The Scottish government was criticized for handling the outbreak at a conference in Edinburgh in February organized by the sports brand Nike. Twenty-five participants were later confirmed to have the virus, but details of the outbreak were not made public to respect patient privacy. According to the BBC, public health authorities in Scotland were notified of the outbreak on March 2, but the Scottish government postponed the ban on mass meetings until March 16 and was not locked until March 23, the same day the restrictions were announced by the British government.
Westminster’s careless response to the pandemic has triggered disappointment with the Conservative government at Westminster. With an endless look at the public health crisis, it is too early to say whether voters will vent their frustration with Johnson’s party in the next election or if it will trigger more dramatic changes, spurring calls for Scottish independence and Irish unity. Coupled with the Brexit negotiations and the global economic downturn, the coming years can fundamentally change the way people in Scotland and Northern Ireland view their relationship with Britain.
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