Scottish Referendum Raises Risk of British EU Exit

If Scotland secedes, a majority of voters in the rump United Kingdom could vote to leave the EU.

Statue of a unicorn in Edinburgh, Scotland, March 11
Statue of a unicorn in Edinburgh, Scotland, March 11 (byronv2)

If Scotland votes to leave the United Kingdom later this year, it could put the rest of the country on a path to leaving the European Union.

An Ipsos MORI poll released on Thursday found that 54 percent of Brits want to stay in the EU. When the pollster asked the same question in November 2012, just 44 percent said they backed membership against 48 percent who wanted to get out.

Two other polls published in March by YouGov also found that most voters support staying in the bloc.

Two referendums

Prime Minister David Cameron has promised to call a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU if he is reelected next year.

A referendum on Scottish independence in September could make a “Brexit” more likely. Scots tend to be more pro-European than the English.

Most Scots want to remain in the United Kingdom, but a TNS survey released this week found that their majority has shrunk to 9 points, down from 22 points last year.

Together

Cameron, whose Conservative Party is unpopular north of the border, urged Scots on Thursday to stay together.

“We want Scotland to stay,” he said during a visit to Glasgow, the largest city in the region.

We are all enriched by being together. Scotland puts the “great” into Great Britain. Together we are a United Kingdom with a united future.

Politically, Scotland’s secession would not disfavor Cameron’s party. The Conservatives hold just one of Scotland’s 59 seats in the national parliament. The opposition Labour Party, by contrast, has 41. Without Scotland, it would be hard pressed to win a majority in the rump United Kingdom.

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