Yorkshire Independence : The Myths and Realities
The idea of Yorkshire independence has been around for years. It is not clear how it originated. It may have come about because Yorkshire people are considered “independently” minded or it may have been because the UK was going through one of its periodic financial crises and some Yorkshire people thought that we could certainly do better than those in Westminster if we were independent. The whole idea though has always been a bit of a joke, some humour to lighten the day. The concept of an independent Yorkshire, however, is not as daft as it sounds. There are many small countries with similar sized populations and economies to Yorkshire that exist quite happily as independent states, some thrive. In Europe we have countries such as Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Iceland that all exist as independent states and there are many other examples.
So could Yorkshire exist as an independent state and should it? Why go for devolution when you can have the full monty? The answer is probably that Yorkshire could exist as an independent state but it is not clear that we would be any better off. Yorkshire currently does not really pay its way in the world but then again neither does the UK as a whole. Yorkshire does not currently have many of the institutions that it would need to exist as a separate sovereign state. In an emergency situation many of these could be put in place quickly but some would be very difficult to create from scratch at short notice. For example, Yorkshire currently has no central administration and there is no central leadership of any real substance. So if Yorkshire became independent at short notice the upheaval would be tremendous. Had the Scottish referendum gone the other way, Scotland would have been in a similar position. There is no way that independence would have been achieved according to the SNP’s desired timetable as no advance preparation had been done at all but at least Scotland would have had many national institutions in place. Yorkshire would have to create these from scratch.
Independence is very different from devolution. We would not be able to hang on to the UK’s coat tails. We would have to do everything for ourselves. We would have to find all the money to pay for our own public services. We would have to have our own currency. We would have to have our own system of government. We would have to be capable of defending our own borders, providing all our own security and we would have to be able to carry out our own negotiations on international affairs. Whilst this might sound attractive to some, the implications would be significant and one of our neighbours might object. The British establishment simply could not tolerate an independent Yorkshire because, in much the same scenario as an independent Scotland, an independent Yorkshire would almost certainly lead to the break-up of the UK. Yorkshire has several UK and NATO military bases. As an independent Yorkshire would almost certainly be neutral, these bases would have to go. NATO and the British establishment would not be very happy about this.
An independent Yorkshire would require inspired leadership to establish the state and transform the economy. An independent Yorkshire could only exist with the full support of the Yorkshire people. For these two reasons, I doubt that the British establishment need concern itself with Yorkshire independence anytime soon. So I suppose we will just have to settle for devolution but then again?
(Ireland, not Scotland, might be the model with perhaps aspirations to emulate and have links with countries like Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Tempering these aspirations would be the fact that an independent Yorkshire would almost certainly be ejected from the EU, though some people might see this as an advantage.)