Steve Forbes panics over the possibility that the U.K. will break up:
The referendum on whether to break up the United Kingdom has ramifications that go far beyond the specific futures of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is no exaggeration to say that it will fundamentally affect the course of Europe, the US and, indeed, Western civilisation [bold mine-DL].
It won’t do any such thing. Forbes’ warning may be the most comically alarmist one on this subject that I have seen all year. If Scotland votes ‘yes’, it will be very important for itself and the rest of the U.K., and there may be some consequences in other parts of western Europe involving other separatist movements, but it isn’t going to have much of an effect outside of that. The peaceful dissolution of the U.K. isn’t going to “encourage all the forces of chaos, terrorism and aggression.” That doesn’t even begin to make sense. Which terrorists exactly would be encouraged by the outcome of a popular referendum? What aggression will it inspire? Forbes doesn’t offer many specific examples of what would happen. At one point, he repeats the nonsense claim that the rest of the U.K. will lose Britain’s permanent seat on the Security Council, but there is no chance that will happen. Stewart Patrick explained this earlier in the week:
The near-certain outcome, if the Scots unwisely choose to go it alone, is that the authorities in Edinburgh will immediately recognize the UK government’s UNSC claim. A newly independent but closely integrated Scotland has everything to lose and nothing to gain by disputing the UK’s permanent seat….Perhaps more surprisingly, the attitude of the remaining permanent four UNSC members will be identical: they will quickly recognize the rump United Kingdom as the state entitled to permanent membership.
Forbes also worries that Moscow will exploit the result to justify what it has done in Ukraine, but this concern is misplaced. Russia may pretend that its sham referendum in Crimea is comparable to this one, but that just underscores how obviously phony their pretensions to promoting self-determination are. If Moscow intends to continue stirring up Russians in neighboring states, it is going to do that regardless of the outcome of today’s vote. No doubt there will be some attempt to use the example of Scotland in “whataboutist” arguments about other issues, but we shouldn’t mistake this kind of trolling for being the cause of actions by Russia or anyone else. Other separatist movements will probably be given a psychological boost, but that isn’t likely to change as much as Forbes fears. For all the concern over precedent, what has happened in the U.K. this year seems to be extremely unusual and would be difficult for other separatist movements to replicate with the same success. In any case, it’s not obvious that the success of other peaceful separatist movements in Europe would have to be such a bad thing for European politics.