I know some of my readers will have been kept up nights of late worrying about the real problem of our age: what do we replace the EU flag with on UK driving licences once Brexit is complete? Of course, I could churlishly chime in here that we could just redesign the licences any way we like and replace the EU stars with nothing at all, or even, hey, just add the Union flag. But some Tory MPs have other ideas, such as adding regional flags and insignias instead.
Scott Mann, a Cornish MP who is talking this idea up, tells it like this:
“With the EU flag disappearing from the UK driving licence after Brexit, I think people should be given the option of having a regional flag as well as the Union flag which is already there, such as the Cornish, English, Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish flags, among others. Although we are one United Kingdom, we all come from different countries and regions, and I think many people would like to have the option of making this known on their official identification.”
This is mostly waffle, designed to play into regional pride in places that voted heavily to Leave. But it is a sign that certain sections of the ruling party are being more than a little cavalier about the future structural integrity of the country we live in, and that this could lead in a decade or so to some unintended consequences.
It is always remarkable to me how little Eurosceptics paid and continue to pay to how Brexit could lead to the breakup of the UK. I’m not even just talking about Scotland going Indy or a united Ireland either. England itself is riddled with great internal tensions that are barely discussed in any sort of realistic fashion. When it does get covered in the press, it’s when there is a by-election in a coastal town and the hacks give us a passing “isn’t it peculiar that this feels a bit like Bulgaria?” and then we all move on. England is a land more divided than we let on.
I’m not just talking urban v rural, or even north v south here. While Steve Mann seems to realise the importance of symbols like the Cornish flag, he seems not to have thought through where all of that leads. For once Cornwall can begin to think of itself more and more as a separate entity, the more the demand for regional devolution will grow within England, particularly if the flavour of the day is disintegration of the Union. Add to that the very real possibility that regional disparity in terms of wealth could either stay static post-Brexit or even move backwards and then this becomes even more pertinent. Once we’re out of the EU, things such as massive regional wealth inequality can no longer be blamed on Brussels, after all.
Are the Tories ready to massively devolve power in England? I don’t think so, and if I’m right about that, they should stop toying with the idea of places like Yorkshire as distinct places deserving of being noted as entities distinct from the rest of England. I have nothing against regional devolution, by the way. I just think that these things need to be seriously thought through and my fear is that this is precisely what isn’t happening at present.