Sunday 8 December 2019

We should keep a close eye on small developments

WE often miss the changes taking place under our noses. While most of us have worried about the break-up of the euro for years, we have ignored the possibility of the break-up of two of Europe's oldest and most successful states; Britain and Spain.

Independence parties in Scotland and Catalonia are preparing for referendums next year which could see their regions secede for good, triggering other countries in Europe to follow suit.

While most polls suggest voters in Scotland and Catalonia will eventually decide to stick with London and Madrid, our own history is a reminder than anything can happen.

The main significance of the 1916 rebellion is that the cack-handed response from the British turned the population away from mild demands for Home Rule and towards independence.

Empires and countries often break-up after long periods of peace when ordinary people forget the benefits of a strong army. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, we have countries from Czechoslovakia to Sudan split themselves in two.

There is little doubt that an independent Scotland and, to a lesser degree, an independent Catalonia would pose interesting challenges to this country.

Scotland is already trying to compete head-on when it comes to investment and the like and it is likely that it would try to undercut our corporation taxes as well.

Edinburgh would certainly make a convincing English-speaking eurozone alternative to Dublin's financial services centre.

Whether either region gains independence remains to be seen, but it would be ironic if the 1916 celebrations coincided with the birth of new and hungry small nations with the talent to eat our lunch.

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