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'United' Kingdom as Model

Europe could mimic Britain's blend of unity, diversity

STRANGE things are happening constitutionally in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. And the rest of the European Union needs to pay heed.

The Scottish National Party demands independence for Scotland and is rapidly gaining ground. The Welsh National Party demands at least partial independence. Only the majority in Northern Ireland want to maintain the union intact.

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But what of England? There is no English National Party. At sports matches between the countries of the United Kingdom, Scots, Welsh, and Irish teams sing their own anthems. The English sing the UK anthem, "God Save the Queen." There is no English anthem. A recent survey showed that when asked their nationality, 90 percent of the English replied "British."

What bothers Scottish nationalists is that for 13 years they have been ruled by mainly English Conservatives. Naturally, they want that to stop. But if it does, can they expect the English to accept rule by the Scots? The Labour Party looks certain to win the next general election, and about half of the Labour government seems likely to be Scottish. Anyway, If Scotland is independent, could Scottish members of Parliament be allowed to vote on strictly English concerns? Then take Wales. One Welsh county council has voted to ban the purchase of Welsh houses by people from England. Since there are probably 150,000 Welsh people with English jobs and living in English houses, can that possibly be accepted?

The strange fact is that England is no longer a separate nation. It is a smaller version of the United States. History has made it so. More than 1,000 years ago Danes and Norsemen followed the Saxons into England. In the 11th century there came French Normans. Following the breakup of the British Empire, millions of people from Africa, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and, the West Indies made their homes here.

(To inject a strictly personal note: I reckon I am a true "Englishman." I was born in London. But my mother was Danish, although born in British territory; and my father was of Scottish descent, although born on the Isle of Man. This isle is, itself, mainly independent of the UK.)

THE important question today is this: What keeps these different people together - English, Scots, Welsh, Irish, West Indian, African, Indian, and so on?

This is important, in my opinion, not only for Britain itself but also for the European Union. It may be even more important for Europe than for the UK.

The answer to the question is this: As in the US, all citizens of England (and the UK generally) speak the same language and salute the same flag.

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This is the lesson the whole European Union needs to take on board. A single United States of Europe cannot be successfully formed unless and until the various nationalities "speak the same language and salute the same flag." Speaking the same language may not be in a literal sense, but in that case it must be metaphorical: The various nations must truly want the same things - economic, social, and political.

At the same time, the Scottish and Welsh demand for independence warns of the need for what the European Unionists call "subsidiarity," that is, the devolution of as much power as possible from the center to individual nations.

The European Union cannot possibly be successful unless these two criteria are met. The heads of state in the many countries of the EU need to be reminded: Think of England.

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