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The End of the Union?

Summary:
Northern Ireland will no longer be part of the UK within 20 years. The 2011 census showed that the population had become less than 50% Protestant (45% Catholic, 48% Protestant  (1)).  The Protestant majority disappears in the under 40 year old group which means that within 20 years there will be more Catholics than Protestants, probably 45% Catholic and 35% Protestant with the remainder professing no religion or neither.The growth in Catholicism is largely natural growth (2) and is shifting the balance of population towards the Catholics at about 0.7% per year.  In 20 years there will probably be a Catholic voting majority. It is not just Catholics who wish for a United Ireland.  EU Nationalists (those who see themselves as EU Citizens rather than British citizens) are also a sizeable

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Northern Ireland will no longer be part of the UK within 20 years. The 2011 census showed that the population had become less than 50% Protestant (45% Catholic, 48% Protestant  (1)).  The Protestant majority disappears in the under 40 year old group which means that within 20 years there will be more Catholics than Protestants, probably 45% Catholic and 35% Protestant with the remainder professing no religion or neither.

The growth in Catholicism is largely natural growth (2) and is shifting the balance of population towards the Catholics at about 0.7% per year.  In 20 years there will probably be a Catholic voting majority.

The End of the Union?

It is not just Catholics who wish for a United Ireland.  EU Nationalists (those who see themselves as EU Citizens rather than British citizens) are also a sizeable group although Protestant EU Nationalists are probably less likely to transfer allegiance to a United Ireland than to the EU (3).   The opinion polls show that sentiment for a United Ireland is now 50-50, and highlight the demographic divide suggesting that in 10 or 20 years there will be a clear majority for union:

The End of the Union?
The polls really matter in Northern Ireland because the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement is a one-way valve to Irish Unification.  It says that the British and Irish Governments will:

"(i) recognise the legitimacy of whatever choice is freely exercised by a majority of the people of Northern Ireland with regard to its status, whether they prefer to continue to support the Union with Great Britain or a sovereign united Ireland;

(ii) recognise that it is for the people of the island of Ireland alone, by agreement between the two parts respectively and without external impediment, to exercise their right of self-determination on the basis of consent, freely and concurrently given, North and South, to bring about a united Ireland, if that is their wish, accepting that this right must be achieved and exercised with and subject to the agreement and consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland; "

It has no clause that says, for instance, that if after unification the people of Belfast decide to return to the UK they may do so.  The Belfast Agreement is a blueprint for waiting until the demographics/events favour unification of Ireland then having a Referendum to permanently impose it.  The Agreement is an International Treaty.

Having considered one Labour Treaty that demolishes the United Kingdom are there any other problems with our Union?  Labour's Devolution of the UK established a Scottish Parliament that had substantial independence from Westminster.  In many ways this also constitutes a one way valve to Scottish Independence.  It provides the SNP with a platform from which to demand an Independence Referendum and it only needs a weak UK Government for this to be achieved.  The events after the EU Referendum provided such a window of opportunity for Scottish Independence:

The End of the Union?
My Scotland poll: Yes to independence takes the lead

52% of Scots favoured independence in August 2019. Panelbase and YouGov polls have confirmed this lead in January 2020.

Whether the lead for Scottish Independence will persist until 2024 is anyone's guess.  It depends on events.  Both the Belfast Agreement and Devolution have introduced one-way valves into the future of the Union for the UK.  Given sufficient time an event will occur that will give a transient majority of over 5% for NI or Scotland to leave the UK and they will exit at that point.

The lack of any ban on Independence in the devolution settlements suggests that Labour wanted to terminate the UK...  The good news is that England and Wales are the power house of the UK, Scotland only has the population of Yorkshire and the loss of NI and Scotland will clarify our politics.

10/2/2020

1. Sectarianism in Northern Ireland: A Review, D Morrow.

2. Religious Affiliation in Northern Ireland 2001-2011: A Longitudinal Perspective.  Ian Shuttleworth and Stefanie Döbler.

3. My Northern Ireland survey finds the Union on a knife-edge. Lord Ashcroft Polls

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