Last week, Britain voted to leave the European Union.
Well, at least part of it did.
If you look at the map above, it's hard to miss the geographical split among British voters in the E.U. referendum results. Scotland and Northern Ireland clearly voted to remain and are now grumbling that they might try to block the vote or leave the United Kingdom. More dramatic still, Londoners are demanding independence from Britain, noting that they, too, voted en masse to remain in the E.U.
If such a scenario were to play out, as fantastically unlikely as it is, it is possible that one day a post-Brexit Britain would simply be a rump state of Wales and England, missing its enormous capital city. In the spirit of the now-infamous "Brexit" portmanteau, perhaps it could be called "Wangland" ("Engles" might be more palatable, though it sounds a bit too English).
No one is predicting that such a state will exist anytime soon, but it's worth imagining what it would look like. Not only for what it could say about some unlikely future state, but also what it may say about the very real situation Britain finds itself in.
A new geography
Here's the geography of this new country. Obviously, the giant hole where London is seems a bit unusual, but, geographically, enclaves such as this aren't totally unheard of: San Marino is completely surrounded by Italy, for example, and Lesotho by South Africa.
For the sake of fairness, we'd give this new nation the big non-London cities, including those that voted "remain," such as Manchester, Liverpool and Cardiff. Birmingham, the largest city to vote to "leave" the European Union, could be the seat of this new country's government.
Even so, in terms of size, the country would clearly be diminished. The United Kingdom is 94,525 square miles — about the same size as Romania or, to put it in U.S. terms, Michigan. If Scotland, Northern Ireland and London all left, it would be closer to 58,000 square miles — slighter bigger than Bangladesh and about the size of Iowa.
A new population
There would also be a shift in terms of population. According to the Office of National Statistics, the population of the U.K. is 65,110,000, which puts it just behind France and at about 22nd in rankings (no U.S. states come anywhere close to this number, unfortunately).
Meanwhile, Scotland has 5,473,000 people, Northern Ireland has 1,851,600, and greater London has 8,539,000. This means that our new nation's population would be 49,246,400 — a drop in the rankings to 10 million behind Italy and 4 million above Spain. It is also worth noting that London's population has been growing almost twice as fast as the rest of England in recent years. It is thought that by 2024 the city will reach 10 million in population, though how that would change under an independent status is hard to predict.
In terms of demographics, there'd be plenty of change. London is a truly international city, the destination for 38 percent of international migrants who arrive in England and Wales, according to the ONS. In the 2011 census, 81.9 percent of the population across the U.K. classified themselves as "White British," which is fairly close to the figure for just England and Wales (80.5 percent). However, only 44.9 percent of Londoners considered themselves White British. If London, along with Scotland and Northern Ireland, were to leave the United Kingdom, the rest would be 86.56 percent White British.
Politics in this new country may be very different, too. It was widely noted ahead of the Scottish referendum in 2014 that if Scotland left the U.K. (and took its Scottish National Party and left-wing Labour constituencies with it), the right-wing Conservative Party could be assured the majority in Parliament for the foreseeable future. With the Labour Party making up the vast majority of London's representatives in Parliament, the Conservatives would have an even greater advantage and the future of the country Labour Party would look grim.
The anti-E.U. U.K. Independence Party would probably do well, however. The party has little support in Scotland, Northern Ireland or London, and it could well hold more sway in a smaller parliament.
A new economy
Gross domestic product across the entire United Kingdom is $2.5 trillion, according to Eurostat figures from 2014, which makes it second only to Germany ($3.2 trillion) in the E.U. Those same statistics show that Scotland has a GDP of $190 billion, Northern Ireland has a GDP of $53 billion, and London has $563 billion. Thus, the GDP of a new nation without these three pieces would be around $1.7 trillion, which means it would drop from second to fourth in Eurostat's rankings of GDP.
The reality, of course, is more complicated than that. It's hard to overestimate how much London has contributed to the U.K. economy. Although it is an enormous city, it clearly punches above its weight — contributing 22 percent of the total gross value added (GVA) for the entire United Kingdom, even though it has only 13 percent of the population. The ONS has also estimated that Londoners pay more in taxes than they take in from government spending. Meanwhile, the city's economy continues to grow faster than the rest of the country.
When international firms come to Britain, they tend to set up base in London. They have good reason, too — the city is the country's hub for media, arts, technology and much more. Its position as a financial center may be unparalleled around the world: London was recently ranked the top financial center in the world by the Global Financial Centers Index, overtaking New York.
And the economy isn't all about London, either. Another factor might be whether Scotland keeps control of oil in the North Sea.
Exactly how this London-less nation would be able to adapt is unclear. It does have some major economic hubs, including greater Manchester and Birmingham, and it would benefit by keeping the majority of Britain's esteemed centers of higher education — including Oxford and Cambridge universities. And though it would miss out on finance and other service industries, it would have much of Britain's manufacturing industry.
The reality of the situation
Okay, okay, don't get too excited yet: This is far from a sure thing. Scottish, Northern Irish and London-based voters may be angry at the result of Thursday's referendum, but any plot to secede isn't going to happen in the immediate future (with the possible exception of Scotland).
The map at the top of the post may also suggest a Britain more divided than it actually is. In many parts of England and Wales, the vote was relatively even and only slightly in favor of "leave." The same is true in some "remain" areas in Scotland, Northern Ireland or London.
But it's hard to deny that there is a divide. London dominates the country like few other cities in other nations. Scottish and Irish voters, with their separate identities, may have looked to the E.U. as a counterweight to that, but voters in England and, to a lesser extent, Wales (which has been intertwined with England for far longer than Scotland and Ireland) don't seem to see it the same way.
This probably doesn't come as a surprise to most British readers. Fears of London's domination have been around for a long time — a few years ago, the BBC moved much of its operations to Salford, outside Manchester, in a bid to counter its bias toward the capital.
With the Brexit vote, the reality of this is starting to set in. In the aftermath of the referendum, many "remain" voters flooded social media to reveal that they didn't even know any "leave" voters.
Perhaps they're living in a different country already.
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