In defence of small nation states

At the Spectator.

Scotland would do fine as an independent nation. They gave the world Adam Smith, after all.

It’s not just Scotland; Catalonia is next in line and Flanders may also break away. In Nigeria Biafran secessionism has returned and one of the likely results of ejecting ISIS from Mosul will be Kurdish independence finally coming together. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of groups who would like independence – and the world would probably be a better place if they succeeded.

In 1992 Freddie Heineken, of beer fame, wrote a book in which he proposed a united Europe of smaller countries of around 5 to 10 million people.

He went a bit far – I’m not sure there is an appetite for an independent Wessex or Mercia anymore – but his idea made sort of sense.

Spend any time on the continent and you can easily see why the EU is popular there and nation-states are not so important; Provence, for example, has more in common with Catalonia or Lombardy than it does with Normandy or Ille de France. Ditto for the Catalans and northern Italians. The same is not true with Kent and Picardy. The EU is logical because it recognises the gradation of culture and identity found in Europe, and the fact that borders are historically arbitrary. (They are within Britain to some extent, as Northumbrians have far more in common with Lothian than London, and indeed were once part of the same medieval kingdom). That one part of Europe ended up in France and another Italy has much to do with historical quirk or accident.

Baron Heineken was a great believer in the EU, but many of the benefits that the Union has undoubtedly brought our continent are now settled at world level, where tariffs and other barriers have dropped sharply since the 1970s.

It’s why in the long term I think post-brexit Britain will be fine, as the developed world continues to drop barriers to trade. (The short and medium term, I’m not so confident.) The same goes for Scotland, though, or Catalonia or Provence, or the Shetlands for that matter.

Read it all there.

What do you think?