English independence is a political stance advocating secession of England, the largest and most populous country of the British Isles, from the United Kingdom. Support for secession of England has been influenced by the increasing devolution of political powers to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, where independence from the United Kingdom is a prominent subject of political debate.
English independence has been seen by its advocates as a way to resolve the West Lothian question in British politics: Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs in the Parliament of the United Kingdom at Westminster being able to vote on matters affecting England, but English MPs not having the same power over equivalent issues in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as these powers are devolved to the Scottish Parliament, Northern Ireland Assembly or the National Assembly for Wales. This anomaly was addressed in 2015 using the English votes for English laws procedures to ensure that legislation affecting only England requires a majority vote of MPs representing English constituencies.
While some minor political parties have campaigned for English independence, all major UK-wide political parties adhere to the conventional view of British unionism, and oppose altering the constitutional status of England. Scottish demands for independence, rather than English demands, are seen as the most pressing threat to British unity; Scotland voted against independence at the referendum on 18 September 2014, and a second vote is proposed in late 2018 or early 2019. Current (2018) strains over Brexit, the Irish border, the Irish abortion referendum landslide and the DUP's crutch for Theresa May's minority Tory government are all making more likely the secession of Northern Ireland from the UK.
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The English national identity developed over a long period of time. In the wake of the breakdown of Roman rule in Britain from the middle of the fourth century, present day England was progressively settled by Germanic groups. Collectively known as Anglo-Saxons, these were Angles and Saxons from what is now the Danish/German border area and Jutes from the Jutland peninsula. The Kingdom of England came into being in the 10th century: it spanned much of the southern two-thirds of Great Britain and a number of smaller outlying islands. The Norman conquest of Wales from 1067–1283 (formalized by the Statute of Rhuddlan in 1284) placed Wales under English control, and Wales came under English law with the Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542, which disestablished the Principality of Wales.
In 1603, the Union of the Crowns took place when the death of Elizabeth I resulted in James VI, King of Scots, acceding to the English throne, placing England and Scotland under personal union. In 1707, the Acts of Union were passed by both the Parliament of England and the Parliament of Scotland, forming the Kingdom of Great Britain. The measure was deeply unpopular in both Scotland and England. The Scottish signatories to the Act were forced to sign the documents in secrecy because of mass rioting and unrest in the Scottish capital, Edinburgh. Scotland did however retain Scots law, a legal system distinct from that used in England and Wales.
In 1800, the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland both passed new Acts of Union, creating the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. In 1921, the Anglo-Irish Treaty was agreed, allowing Southern Ireland under the Irish Free State to become a Dominion, resulting in only Northern Ireland remaining within the UK, which in 1927 was formally renamed the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Arguments for English independence
Advocates of English sovereignty claim that a sovereign England would enjoy one of the world's strongest economies, with an estimated GDP of US$2.865 trillion as of 2015, making it the world's 5th, 6th, or 7th largest economy depending on measurement. It is also claimed that England would be the 15th wealthiest nation in the world, with a GDP per capita of US$33,999. Compare this with $30,783 for Scotland, $23,397 for Wales, and $24,154 for Northern Ireland, or $27,659 for the UK minus England.
Along with London, the leading major world city and the world's largest financial centre, as its capital, England would continue to possess an enviable education system that includes some of the world's most prestigious universities, with the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge and colleges of the University of London regularly featuring among the top 10 of the QS World University Rankings.
Supporters of English Independence
- Political parties
- English Independence Party
- English Democrats
The English nationalist movement has its roots in a historical legacy which predates the United Kingdom. The rise in English identity in recent years, as evidenced by the increased display of the English flag (particularly during international sporting competitions and in relation to their football team), is sometimes attributed in the media to the increased devolution of political power to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. One possible incentive for the establishment of self-governing English political institutions is the West Lothian question: the constitutional inconsistency whereby MPs from all four nations of the UK can vote on matters that solely affect England, while those same matters are reserved to the devolved assemblies of the other nations. (For example, the Scottish MP for West Lothian has a say on policing in the West Midlands.)
Contemporary English nationalist movements differ significantly from mainstream Scottish, Welsh and Cornish nationalist movements (whilst similar to some strands of Irish nationalism) insofar as they are often associated with support for right-of-centre economic and social policies. Nationalists elsewhere in the British Isles tend towards a social democratic political stance. English nationalism is also often associated with Euroscepticism: one reason for opposition to the EU is the view that England is being arbitrarily subdivided into regions at the behest of the European Union.
Polling data for English devolution and independence may be found in the table below.
A political party campaigning for English Independence was formed in February 2008, the Free England Party, it achieving some minor electoral success before disbanding in December 2009.
An English Parliament within the UK was the (3.2.2) 2016 Manifesto pledge of the English Democrats.
An English Independence party was registered in 2016 for full independence from UK; its leader Neil Humphrey changed his name by deed-poll to 'Corbyn Anti' (in order to appear on the ballot paper as "ANTI, Corbyn") to stand in the Batley and Spen by-election, 2016.
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I would vote for English independence, as a step towards strengthening the friendship between our countries.
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- "Registration summary; English Independence". Electoral Commission. Retrieved 28 October 2016.