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Opinion
Max Hastings

There Will Always Be an England, But Not a U.K.

A breakup of Britain would be a boon for Northern Ireland, bad for Scotland and Wales, and devastating for England’s place in the world.

Is the party over?

Is the party over?

Photographer: Sion Touhig/Getty Images

Corrected

Britain on the map is an untidily shaped little island that broke off Europe and clings to the eastern shore of the Atlantic. Political reality is more complicated. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as my country is properly called, consists of a cluster of nations and bits of nations that have never lived entirely comfortably together, and are now dangerously close to an existential crisis.

A new book by a respected former BBC correspondent, Gavin Esler, asserts that “Britishness is dead.” In “How Britain Ends: English Nationalism and the Rebirth of Four Nations,” Esler, a Scot, writes: “Brexit is both a symptom and also now a cause of the widening cracks in the union.”