A Disunited Kingdom: Views on the Brexit Differ in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland

21/06/2016 16:48 | Updated 21 June 2016

Perhaps football is the clearest sign that devolution has come a long way in the United Kingdom. Wales and England are in the same group at the Euro 2016 in France and fierce rivals on the pitch. Northern Ireland is fending for itself in a different group altogether.

This hints at the circumstance that the Brexit debate is often over-simplified as the quest of one nation state seeking independence (or not) from a corporation of foreign states on mainland Europe, namely the EU.

Actually, the name Brexit is misleading, as it discounts the Northern Irish. The whole thing should be called something like UKexit, as we're talking about all the people of the United Kingdom being asked to vote in the referendum on June 23.

In reality, there never has been a nation state called the United Kingdom. In fact, there are four nations (or countries) that make up the state entity that, more often than not, seems rather disunited.

One interesting angle on the Brexit debate then is how views differ across these nations: What are the predominant views in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland?

In general, it seems the English are the most eager Brexiteers. According to a recent ICM Unlimited poll among voters taking part in the EU referendum, close to 50 percent want the UK to leave (as the chart below shows).

The opposite is true for the most fervent drivers of UK devolution to the North of Hadrian's Wall: The Scottish have a long history of political emancipation from England. Of all regional governing bodies in the UK, apart from Westminster, the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh has most powers. As a recent Ipsos MORI poll suggests, 58 percent of Scots want the UK to remain.

The picture is somewhat less clear-cut to the West of Offa's Dyke. The Welsh are assured nationalists too and the National Assembly for Wales in Cardiff has legislative powers to wield. However, according to a recent YouGov poll the Welsh are undecided on the Brexit issue, a total of 18 percent not being sure what's best, remaining or leaving. (Taking a closer look reveals that the people of Cardiff take a liking to the EU, with 50 percent intending to vote to remain.)

Northern Ireland has its own Assembly in Belfast and is the only one of the four countries that is cut-off from Great Britain by the Irish Sea. On the other hand, it has close links (albeit sometimes still troubled) to the Republic of Ireland, which of course is a member of the EU and the Eurozone. This also might be the reason why the people of Northern Ireland are staunch supporters of the remain camp. As a poll by LucidTalk suggests, 57 percent want the UK to stay in the EU.

If you, for simplicity's sake, wanted to slice the cake four ways: Scotland and Northern Ireland both seem to prefer to remain. While Wales is somewhat undecided, England tilts towards wanting to leave. Hence, the Kingdom seems more disunited than ever.

Important questions would spring up if an overall majority of UK residents decided to leave the EU on Thursday, 23 June: Would the Brexit further propel devolution? Could some of the countries seek to wave goodbye to England and the UK, looking to re-enter the EU as fully sovereign states?