Purley – Is it time for England to dissolve the union?

17 April 2024 , categories: Devolution, Meetings, Purley

Croydon Constitutionalists met at Whispers on Wednesday 17th April 2024 to discuss whether it is time for England to dissolve the union?

Together with Georgia, Portugal, Ethiopia, and Catalonia, England each year celebrates St George’s Day on the 23rdApril.  Alive from AD c.280 to 303, St George as we now know him was a Roman soldier of Greek origin and officer in the guard of Roman Emperor Diocletian.  Despite torture George refused to make a sacrifice in honour of the pagan gods, and for this he was eventually executed.  Although invoking the spirit of St George, we hoped for nothing quite so extreme as we used our April discussion to ask the question: Is it time for England to dissolve the Union?

The discussion was structured around four key areas before opening to a wider chat.  We discussed the impact of England leaving the Union on:

  • National defence
  • Tax, Spend and Trade
  • Culture
  • World Standing.

The premise of how the Union might be dissolved, or indeed if it would persist once England were to leave, wasn’t set, leaving it open to discussion.

National Defence

The topic was introduced with a few facts and thoughts on the defence impacts of England no longer being in the Union.  Although 84.3% of the UK population, England provides only 81% of army recruits and 82% of navy recruits. Wales with 4.7% of the population, provide 6% of army and navy recruits. Scotland at 8.2% of the population provides 9% of both army and navy recruits.

If England were no longer part of the Union, we would no longer have our major submarine bases and much of our ship building in our country.  Whilst we would no longer have large numbers of troops in Northern Ireland, England would still have to take the lead on defending these islands.  How would England react to say Scotland offering a base to a foreign power?  Whilst our forces would be split up, it was assumed England being by far the largest partner in the Union would retain most of the UK’s military might.

It was pointed out that the over representation of the Celtic fringe in our armed forces was fairly minor, and as with the Republic of Ireland, citizens of other nations could still be allowed to join our military.

On the topic of bases, the loss of the deep seaports for nuclear subs would be an issue and they would cost many billions to replace.  However, it was noted there are already foreign bases on UK soil from the US, and just because England and Scotland are no longer in union we could still have a base there.  This could be largely a question of money and what we offered to keep the ports, as an example we initially retained 3 ports in the Irish Free State. It was questioned if the current Scottish Green/SNP government would operate using realpolitik on our retaining the navy bases.  Or if, given their track record, they would expect us to say, place solar panels on our submarines in order to keep them.

The issue was raised if Scotland were to be independent but not part of NATO, this would create an issue for submarine movements coming into the Atlantic from Russia, something today that we are able to monitor and in the event of war defend against.  But the UK already provides air and sea defence for the Republic of Ireland, and it was assumed that England would de facto if not de jure provide defence for all of these islands.

Against all these points it was argued that we have a large influx of illegal movement into the country daily. We can stop submarines but not dinghies.

Tax, Spend and Trade

The Barnet formula ensures public spending is higher per capita in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland than in England.  It provided in 2021/22, a grant of £42bn in Scotland, £22bn in Wales and £16bn in Northern Ireland. In effect Scotland gets free prescriptions and university education paid for by the English.

UK oil and gas tax revenues are forecast to average £8.6 billion from 2022/23 to 2027/28. The UK currently sources around 50% of its natural gas from its own territory, with the North Sea accounting for an estimated 50% of that.  Most of this will not be located in English waters.  The UK is self-sufficient in petrol (and a net exporter), but not self-sufficient for crude oil, diesel or jet fuel.  If we were to fully exploit it there are still large oil and gas reserves in Scotland, and coal in Wales with large potential tax revenue.

We get to split our costs between a wider pool of taxpayers. We gain benefits from the free movement of goods and services within the UK. Also, realistically an independent England would still need to provide some support for its neighbours.

Looking at our Oil and Gas industries it was felt that £8billion is just not that much in tax revenue, and that due to the drive to Net Zero the oil industry is largely in decline.

A short discussion was held on the merits of free university education in Scotland.  The cost of ‘free’ education meant there were fewer places available. Partly this was due to Scottish universities choosing to focus on overseas students for the revenue they bring in, even more so than happens in England.

Differing income tax regimes already exists between England and Scotland, and it was noted that an effect of this is people are working from home in England, rather than offices in Scotland to avoid higher Scottish tax rates. It was felt relatively lower tax rates in an independent England could provide an opportunity for greater tax revenue.  On corporation tax it was pointed out that Guinness became a British company post the independence of Ireland and that RBS and the Bank of Scotland said they would move to England in the event of Scotland voting for independence.

People also wondered what the impact of England leaving the Union and in effect kicking out say Wales would be over Wales voting to leave.  The other nations might think very differently of us and might fair better if they chose their path rather than have it forced.

No one felt an independent Wales or Scotland would really put-up true borders with England.  Of course, even within the UK Northern Ireland due to the NIP (Northern Ireland Protocol) has a de facto trade border with Great Britain.  They would likely be forced to put up borders if they joined the EU.  An independent England would be an opportunity for a different way to organise our economic affairs. However, the UK didn’t take that opportunity when we left the EU.  None were sure England would take those opportunities outside of the UK.


We have been united with Wales for 800 years, Scotland for 300, Ireland for 200, we are one nation. A clear majority of people in the UK say they support the Union.  Support also remains high at 78% in England, 60% in Scotland, 69% in Wales, and 70% in Northern Ireland.  Against this the SNP are in power in Scotland, Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland, and the new Welsh First Minister in his acceptance speech talked of “unprecedented hostility towards democratic Welsh devolution from a UK government determined to undermine, frustrate and bypass the Welsh government”.

By being separate we get the benefit of the laboratories of democracy from the different parts of the UK.  However, an independent England might be more likely to avoid the hate crime laws of Scotland, and 20mph of Wales.  England could also make St George’s day a bank holiday, as St Andrew’s day is in Scotland and St Patrick’s day is in Ireland.

We spoke about English culture and how little support it receives.  We held a quick vote to see how people described themselves and 90% of the room would first call themselves British rather than English.  It was also felt while devolution allowed some parts of the UK to go faster, sadly Croydon already had 20mph speed limits, and England was already on the slippery slope to banning free speech with spurious hate crime laws.

World standing

The UK has been the most successful democratic union of nations in world history.  It is responsible for the Industrial Revolution and defending Europe from tyranny.  For all the problems of the world’s largest ever Empire, it heads the Commonwealth of Nations.  We have the 6th largest GDP, 6th most powerful Military, are on the UN security council and ranked 2nd in the world for soft power.

To contend against that, GDP per capita is £34,690 in England, which is £4K higher than Scotland’s, £7.5K higher than Northern Irelands and £9K higher than in Wales.  3 of the top 10 World Ranked Universities are in England, and London is often ranked as the best city in the world to live in, no other UK city comes close.

In terms of our standing, people wondered if it would really impact an independent England.  The vast majority of the military is English and England would absorb most of the former UK military.

The premise of world standing mattering was questioned.  The questions being asked included: Does world standing improve the lives of ordinary people? Would you rather be a citizen of Switzerland or China? And, What is a seat at the top table really worth?  Also, the bottom-line question, does GDP or GDP per capita matter more to most people?  One concern was an independent England might have a smaller GDP than France (the UK’s is higher), and this was considered unacceptable by some.

The discussion veered into the wider question of the Barnet formula, and how does it make sense for rich Scots to get free prescriptions unlike relatively poorer English compatriots.  Some wondered if we should move to a system where local control of spending should only be possible if the revenue is also raised locally.  There was a general view that devolution was at the route of many of the problems.  With this we went to a drinks break and returned for a more general discussion.

General Discussion

We started with a few words which one of our regular attendees emailed in as he couldn’t make the event:

My reasons why it is time for England to dissolve the Union.

I am not a unionist any longer. Why not?


  • The English taxpayer subsidises the Scots, Welsh, and Northern Irish. I like all of these people immensely but do not think subsidising them with ‘forever subsidies and handouts is right for the English taxpayer or long term right for them. It also impoverishes ourselves long term when England is at a point where it is falling apart and needs to fix its own house now.  


  • The three other regions each have their own regional parliaments whilst the English do not have this English legal and social bonding feature to their own polity. Why should the English, the largest group, be denied the same regional opportunity as the three smaller regions?
  • A large proportion of the MP’s in Westminster, which is today meant to be the Parliament for England and the UK both, do not come from English constituencies and do not primarily represent English interests. Explain that logic please?  These MPs represent the regions they emanate from and often overrides the English voice. A prime example of this is the tendency of Scots and Welsh to vote for Left-leaning candidates (perhaps to keep the subsidies rolling in?) which can leave the generally more mildly right wing English voters having to tolerate yet another Left wing government.

 In other words the English end up paying twice:  In cash to prop up the regions and then again in a government they didn’t vote for and which does not represent their interests in Parliament either.

To be coy with the caption, it is time for the English to dissolve the Union before the Union dissolves the English!

The general discussion started up where we left off worried about the impact of devolution.  The concerns about UK governance people raised were more to do with devolution than the Union per se.  There is no encouragement for Wales or Scotland to be efficient when they are always funded more than England.  The lack of devolution to England means the West Lothian question still stands.  More local devolved government with both revenue raising and spending responsibilities was seen as more important than England leaving the Union.  Unless we change our elites what would change from leaving?

A clear majority of the group didn’t want England to leave the Union.  Despite seen little negative from leaving, despite being English, and despite major concerns about the devolved governments the room was British and wanted England to stay in the Union.

Other news from Croydon Constitutionalists

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