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Irish backstop – English exceptionalism?


Boris Johnson

Irish backstop – English exceptionalism?

Sir, – I found Bobby McDonagh’s article on the links between attitudes to Covid-19, Brexit, Trump and populism (“Dominic Cummings affair reflects Brexit exceptionalism”, Opinion & Analysis, May 25th) insightful and convincing in all respects except one: the use of the phrase “British exceptionalism”. As a Scot long domiciled in the south of England, I…

Irish backstop – English exceptionalism?

Irish backstop –

Sir, – I found Bobby McDonagh’s article on the links between attitudes to Covid-19, Brexit, Trump and populism (“Dominic Cummings affair reflects Brexit exceptionalism”, Opinion & Analysis, May 25th) insightful and convincing in all respects except one: the use of the phrase “British exceptionalism”. As a Scot long domiciled in the south of England, I feel it would be fairer and more accurate to say “English exceptionalism”.

Just this week there was a further example of the political disjuncture between Scotland and England in the poll from Ipsos Mori for BBC Scotland showing that 82 per cent of respondents in Scotland thought Nicola Sturgeon has handled the pandemic “very well” or “fairly well” as against only 30 per cent saying the same about Boris Johnson.

Of course, the most striking evidence of this divergence was the 2016 EU referendum result in which Scots voted heavily in favour of Remain.

There is no mystery about this: like Ireland, Scots know they are a small nation of five million or so which cannot delude itself regarding its influence in the world and its need for alliances with other nations.

This difference shows itself culturally in many ways; one example which struck me on coming to live in England was the widespread reflex hostility to European countries (in particular Germany and France), the feeling that “we don’t need them”.

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I never felt this go-it-alone attitude while living north of the English border, but it clearly underlies attitudes to Brexit. I would say its relative absence is common to Scots on both sides of the independence debate. – Yours, etc,

Dr CRAIG McFARLANE,

Milton Keynes, UK.

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