We Asked an Expert How London Could Gain Independence from the UK
Declaring independence is all the rage in international politics. Recently, Venice voted overwhelmingly in favor of becoming an independent city-state, while over in the UK, the Scots are debating whether to consign the Union Jack to the dust bin of history. And ever since the whole Crimea incident, rumors have been flying around that Taiwan will formally attempt to declare independence from China, and that Misrata will attempt to do the same in Libya.
What if the next big independence movement happened closer to, say, Britain’s capital? With a booming population and established trading links with the rest of the world, could London’s people go to it alone?
It’s an idea that’s been mooted a few times, not least by former Mayor Ken Livingstone. When asked what he wanted for London during the 2012 elections, he claimed he wanted a “Republic of London,” and that the city could be improved if other areas of the UK weren’t so busy sucking all the blood out of it. According to Ken, London generates £10–£20 billion (about $15–$30 billion) more in tax for the UK than it receives in public expenditure, making it the cashcow of the UK’s feckless regions.
How feasible would London’s independence claim be? After convincing him this wasn’t a joke, I spoke to Dr. James Ker-Lindsay, a senior research fellow at the London School of Economics who specializes in secession movements.
VICE: Hi, James. What would London have to do to prepare a claim to independence?
James Ker-Lindsay: First of all, if it were to have any hope of success—by which I mean it would receive widespread international support—a formal process would have to be agreed. With Scotland, for example, there’s an agreed process by which it must prepare its independence claim, which will have been negotiated through democratic and legal processes. With London, the same would have to happen.
What are those processes?
It would have to start with a referendum. The wish for independence would have to be expressed. To do this, the central government is usually expected to agree to such a vote; it could take place without permission, but it would have no real effect and would probably just be ignored. In the case of London, this seems a very unlikely prospect. Unlike Scotland or Wales, which have their own historical character, London’s always been an integral part of England. Moreover, considering how interwoven London is with the rest of England, and its wealth, it just seems difficult to see how any government would ever agree to such a vote.