Dis-United Kingdom?

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The visit to America of the First Minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, certainly put the crisis in Britain in a lively light — and none too soon. We caught two interviews, one with Joe Scarborough on MSNBC and another with Gerard Baker of the Wall Street Journal. They gave a glimpse of what a brilliant gadfly is Mr. Salmond. He heads the Scottish National Party, leading advocate of independence. The question will go to Scottish voters in a referendum in September, and while the Nationalists are in the minority at the moment, the polls, Mr. Salmond insists, are moving in his direction.

America ought to be all over this. It’s not just that it involves the possible breakup of the United Kingdom, which was established in 1707 with the union of England and Scotland. It’s also that the Scottish referendum could be followed as soon as next year by a separate plebiscite on whether Britain will exit the European Union. The Sun favors a yes vote on both Scottish independence and the Brixit, as the British exit is known. This and a Republican accession in the 2016 election here in America could clear the way for a broad assertion of the values of classical liberalism.

Those are a lot of ifs, but stay with this. Mr. Salmond is no liberal. He’s a left-wing gadfly. He has no intention of separating from the European socialists who hold power at Brussels. He made it clear, in his interview with Mr. Baker, that if he wins independence for Scotland, he would promptly apply for Scotland’s own membership in the European Union. He points out that since Scotland has been part of the United Kingdom, its laws and regulations are already broadly in accordance with the EU. Good luck to him, we say.

The better part of sagacity in our view lies with the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party, Nigel Farage. He has lately been gaining an astonishing amount of respect in Britain. The London Financial Times, an opponent of a British exit, reckoned in an editorial last week that Mr. Farage emerged as the “clear winner” in two debates with Prime Minister Cameron’s deputy, Nicholas Clegg. The Guardian/Observer rushed out a column by Andrew Rawnsley warning that pro-Europeans who shrug off Mr. Farage do so at their peril.

It’s not our purpose here to advise the British or the Scots, and we’re well aware that the most learned sages — Lord Black of Crossharbor, say — doubt the Scots will actually vote to secede. We’re concerned here with the opportunity for America, an opportunity to which President Obama is either oblivious or, on the evidence so far, hostile. We’ve already marked this point in an editorial called “Obama’s British Blunder.” Mr. Obama is actually trying to palm off the idea that America wants England to stick with the European Union.

On the contrary, in our view there is a historic opportunity here to establish an alliance of countries committed to liberty. One would be England, which, shorn of the albatross of Scottish and European socialism, would be governed by the Conservatives for a generation or more to come; so UKIP could be the vanguard in England for limited, modest government and sound money. Another would be Canada, which is at the moment governed by, in Stephen Harper’s conservative government, one of the most successful administrations in the world. It has weathered the Great Recession better than most. It has also demonstrated, in the Quebec referendum, what an attractive alternative it is to dissolution.

What better partners than England and Canada for the kind of resurgent America that could emerge from the elections of 2014 and 2016? Yet not a single candidate on the Republican side seems to be focusing on this issue. We comprehend that there are those who warn that America is not an attractive partner for principled conservatives, at least not at a time when it is being represented by a president as left-leaning as Mr. Obama. This is a moment, though, to take the long view. It never made sense for Britain to throw in with Europe to the degree that it has. Far better for all for Britain and America to work on their special relationship and widen it with those others who share their common idea of liberty.

The New York Sun

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