This question is based on the assumption that both Northern Ireland and Scotland want to stay in the European Union, where Northern Ireland unifies with Ireland, and/or Scotland gets its independence to rejoin the EU.

Is there be a legal ground for stripping the United Kingdom of its UN Security Council Veto?

3 Answers 3


Article 23 of the charter:

"The Security Council shall consist of fifteen Members of the United Nations. The Republic of China, France, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States of America shall be permanent members of the Security Council."

So long as the UK continues to exist, it is a permanent member with a veto.

Notice that Russia is not in that list, but it retains the permanent seat allocated to the USSR because it is deemed to be a successor state.

So long as the UK breaks up in a manner that results in the Westminster part being deemed the successor state, it will retain its seat. It is difficult to imagine a disintegration in which this isn't the case, unless it's a wholesale Yugoslavia-style military collapse.

  • 4
    Note that Russia's inheritance of the USSR's seat was by achieved by mutual consent of the former Soviet states, and without UN objection. If the UK were to break up, one could imagine that the UN would similarly not object to the rump UK keeping its seat if Scotland/Northern Ireland were happy with that. Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 12:44
  • 4
    If you need a further example, the Republic of China is the government which continues in Taiwan, not the government of the People's Republic of China, which now occupies the seat.
    – origimbo
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 13:11
  • 3
    Something to note also is in the case of China, the ROC's seat was transfered to the PRC after it was recognised as the "only legitimate representative of China" (UN Res 2758), something that is rather unlikely to apply to the UK/England anytime soon. Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 13:11
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    "Russia's inheritance of the USSR's seat" was very much linked to "Russia's inheritance of the USSR's nukes", and one of the campaign promises the SNP gave in the previous referendum was removing trident from Scotland's naval bases
    – Caleth
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 15:41
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    After you mentioned "a wholesale Yugoslavia-style military collapse", now I kind of want to see Mercia on the UN Security Council. Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 16:48

Problem: Who represents the United Kingdom?

The UK would still be a permanent member of the UN Security Council, but who represents it?

Scotland and Northern Island could leave the United Kingdom and accept that the state composed of England and Wales continues to constitute the United Kingdom or at least its legal successor with respect to its role in the UN. Then this rump United Kingdom (rUK) remains a Security Council member (if the UN doesn't raise objections).

However, Scotland and Northern Ireland could claim that there is no United Kingdom without them. They could say that the UK Security Council should be shared between them:

  • Would the UN dismiss these claims and give the seat to England and Wales?
  • Would the UK successors agree on some modalities of sharing their seat? How would this agreement look like?
  • What would the UN do, if the question remains unsolved for a prolonged period? Would the seat be left vacant? Would the seat be given to some other country, maybe India? Would this trigger a larger reorganization of the UN?

There are precedents:

  • The Soviet Union split into a number of successor states. These agreed that Russia assumes the role of the former Soviet Union. The UN didn't object. (That's the non-conflictual way presented in the first paragraph.)
  • The Republic of China (ROC) or Taiwan had been representing China in the UN and as member of the Security Council. However, in 1971 a majority of UN members decided that it was the People's Republic of China that legitimately represents China. By this vote - in accordance with the "One China" principle - Taiwan had not only lost its place in the Security Council but its seat in the UN (and it remains excluded).
  • The SNP has made it clear that the Kingdom will still be united, i.e. the house of Windsor will still hold the Scottish crown. Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 17:03
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    @MartinSchröder the house of Windsor holding the Scottish crown does not mean that the kingdom will be united, but rather there will be two (or more) kingdoms in personal union, much like the state of affairs that existed from 1603 until 1707.
    – phoog
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 18:21
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    @phoog: Compare also the status of the various Commonwealth realms. None of them are part of the UK, despite being in personal union with the British crown.
    – Kevin
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 23:30

I don't know how relevant it is (politics is NOT based on logic), but there is a basis for considering what is referred to as rUK above to be the "successor state" to the UK:

Wales and England were united in 1535/1542. Ireland was officially united with Wales/England in 1801 (although it had been under English/Welsh domination MUCH longer than that. With partition and the creation of the Republic of Ireland in 1921, Northern Ireland remained part of the UK.) Scotland was officially united with England/Wales in 1603.

Chronologically, the union of England with Wales existed before either Ireland (or Northern Ireland) or Scotland were united with England/Wales. IF politics was based on logic, this might indicate the "core" of the UK would be England/Wales or rUK.

  • 3
    Scotland was a separate kingdom in personal union with England between 1603 and 1707, which is the year in which the United Kingdom was formed. The statement that they were "officially united" in 1603 is imprecise if not misleading. There is an additional element in the status of Wales, which is that its legal system was merged into the English legal system, while Scotland and Northern Ireland continue to have separate legal systems to this day.
    – phoog
    Commented Apr 30, 2019 at 18:23

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