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The End of the United Kingdom May Be Nearing

Elections were supposed to settle existential questions over Brexit—instead, they’re raising bigger ones over the nature of the union.

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Illustration: Charlotte Pollet for Bloomberg Businessweek

With the general election campaign picking up momentum in mid-November, Prime Minister Boris Johnson took a moment to gaze patriotically into the future. “In 10 years’ time, I confidently prophesy, we will all be citizens of a proud, strong, and whole United Kingdom—more united than ever,” he told an audience at an electric-car factory in central England on Nov. 13.

That such a comment could be framed as a bold prediction rather than a platitude shows the scale of the chaos the country has found itself in since voting to leave the European Union in 2016. While England is split over how—or whether—to deliver Brexit and move the country forward, the political dynamics in the three other constituent parts of the U.K. seem more about whether the country should exist at all.