Hypothetically, the United Kingdom has decided to separate, Czechoslovakia style, into England-and-Wales and Scotland. The UK ceases to exist with the two new countries as equal successor nations.

In Northern Ireland, the Nationalist community would prefer to join (The Republic of) Ireland. Which new country would the Unionist community prefer?

(For the purposes of this hypothetical, Brexit never happens and Queen Elizabeth II becomes Queen of the two new countries. I'm more interested in the long term rather than considering temporary blips.)

I understand that there isn't going to be a single definitive answer that 100% of that community are going to agree with. I'm interested if there have been any studies that have evaded my searches or simply the opinion of someone close to or part of that community.

UPDATE: Please don't get hung up on the hypothetical scenario or how likely it is. I pose it only to enable the question of where the loyalties of the Unionist community lie.

  • 2
    As things stand, definitely England and Wales.
    – user19831
    Jul 4, 2019 at 18:57
  • 1
    Here's the thing, the English and Scottish crowns had been united (in 1603) for over a century before the act of union between England (and Wales) and Scotland (in 1707). Since the Unionists of Northern Ireland identify with William of Orange (reign 1689 to 1702), presumably their view of 'The Union' is of a union that doesn't include Scotland?!?!? Note: the ancestors of the Ulster Protestants (mostly Unionists) are largely descended from Scots and northern English settlers who arrived in the island of Ireland between 1620 and 1720 Jul 4, 2019 at 21:17
  • @orangesandlemons if you add your connection to the unionist community, that would make a good answer.
    – billpg
    Jul 5, 2019 at 20:23

3 Answers 3


The situation as you describe is unimaginable.

England+Wales is much larger than Scotland, a separation could never be an equal split. England and Wales would be universally seen as the successor to the UK and Scotland as a newly independent state.

However if we accept this hypothesis, and suppose that the constituents of Great Britain have decided to create a legal fiction of an equal division, then this supposes that a referendum has been held throughout the UK. So we also have to suppose a massive change in public opinion in England.

Given all these hypotheses, one can hardly predict how public opinion would also change in Northern Ireland. The current position of the majority is to remain in the UK, and England and Wales would be seen as the UK, so the Unionist community would choose to remain in a Union with England, and not with Scotland. But in the situation you describe any thing is possible.

It is analogous to asking "If the UK splits from the EU in a Czech style divorce, does Spain stay in union with France and Germany, or with the UK"

  • Thanks for that answer. The hypothetical is really just to focus on the central question (What do the Unionists feel?) and I don't want to get hung up on it. Reality won't just glibly hand-wave away Brexit or Scottish Republicans either, but that isn't the question I'm asking.
    – billpg
    Jul 8, 2019 at 11:23
  • """the Unionist community would choose to remain in a Union with England, and not with Scotland."""
    – James K
    Jul 8, 2019 at 21:21
  • "So we also have to suppose a massive change in public opinion in England." Not really that massive a change needed; YouGov tracking puts whole of GB close to 30 Pro/ 40 Anti, and regional breakdown within England tracks that fairly steadily.
    – Jontia
    Jan 15, 2021 at 12:51
  • And on the world building side, as the question assumes Brexit hasn't happened, then increased anger from Leavers happy to lose Scotland, NI and the Tory Party itself to deliver Brexit would be a factor.
    – Jontia
    Jan 15, 2021 at 12:51

Let's not forget the UDI option. An independent Northern Irish state, which some have asserted as being the only way to settle differences between the religious traditions once and for all.

If old "British" Ulster stands apart from the mother country, the mere need to coöperate -- in order to survive -- would exceed those differences which were responsible for the rancour and violence of the not so distant past.

Though I'm an American, I fancy myself a Nationalist where Ireland is concerned. I don't think an independent Northern Ireland is all that viable, but I hold that it's one of the possible outcomes.

  • 2
    Can you provide some reference showing that some argued for that option?
    – JJJ
    Jul 15, 2019 at 3:36

The UK ceases to exist with the two new countries as equal successor nations.

I would like to frame challenge this, partly because I believe the answer is "England and Wales" regardless of what the split looks like, and partly because people forget how complicated the UK and its dependent territories is.

It's not just England+Wales+Scotland+NI. The recent EU negotiations have included on the formal documents Gibraltar (which has ended up in Schengen!) and the sovereign bases in Cyprus. All of the overseas territories have a relationship with Westminster for defense and varying levels of financial, administrative, and diplomatic support.

Nobody in the Scottish independence movement has expressed a desire to have a share of those territories and responsibilities, and those who see independence as decolonization are actively opposed to the idea. To some extent, the fact that the UK still operates the leftovers of an empire is part of the reason for independence in the first place: it results in a highly centralized, paternalist, distant state. In which Scotland is not an equal partner with other parts of the UK, or a distinct and constitutionally defended federal arrangement such as the Swiss Cantons or the German Länder.

The only non-fantasy approach to Scottish independence involves the remains of the Empire remaining attached to Westminster, including Northern Ireland.

The unionists themselves, if you ask them, are loyal not to England but to Britain, complete with all the trappings and the Union Flag.

For the purposes of this hypothetical, Brexit never happens

Well, that's already happened and isn't going to be reversed any time soon.

  • Please don't get hung up on the hypothetical - It really doesn't matter. I only pose it to enable the question of what loyalties the Unionist community have.
    – billpg
    Jan 15, 2021 at 11:32

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