This column first appeared in The Journal print edition on 11/05/2016
It’s late October 2019 and just north of Berwick-upon-Tweed, on a heavily overcast day, the last section of the new border wall between England and Scotland is being lowered into place. The Prime Minster and his Deputy have travelled north from London for the occasion and are surrounded by a small crowd waving flags of St George.
Of the two it is the Deputy who is clearly the more exuberant.
“At long last, we finally have control of our borders once again. People of England, rejoice!” cries Nigel Farage, clearly ‘three sheets to the wind’ despite the invisible sun being short of the yardarm.
Close observers of the scene note that the Prime Minister’s eyes betray a lost look as if to say, ‘It wasn’t quite meant to go like this’ but, caught up in the moment, Boris Johnson manages a passable impression of Winston Churchill turning defeat into victory.
“Like the proverbial English walled garden, my government has now created the conditions in which we, as a people, will produce, prosper and propagate.”
With the weather closing in, Johnson and Farage board the waiting helicopter to fly to Crossmaglen to take part in a similar ceremony to complete the wall between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Meanwhile on the English side of the Solway Firth at Port Carlisle, Defence Minster Paul Nuttal MP, inaugurates the navy’s first Immigrant Retardation and Repudiation Vessel by smashing a bottle of sparkling wine from Kent against its hull.
This may read like an absurdist exaggeration but, just as Jeremy Corbyn has proved mightily popular with Labour Party members, Boris Johnson could do likewise in the forthcoming Conservative Party leadership contest.
With a clear majority of Conservative Party members favouring leaving the EU, and they being the electorate who decide who replaces Cameron, it is clear why Johnson jumped into the arms of the Out campaign. As it stands he is on course to be our next Prime Minister.
UKIP would have no real reason to exist after a victory for the Leave campaign, hence Farage would be understandably tempted by an offer from Boris of a safe Westminster seat and the Deputy leadership, thereby reuniting the Conservative Party after the brutal internal wars over Europe.
Meanwhile there is a growing realisation that a vote by the UK to leave the EU would trigger a second independence referendum in Scotland if the Scots had voted by a clear majority to remain.
The consequences of an independent Scotland continuing as a member of the EU are much less appreciated. Central to the argument for the UK to leave the EU is the UKIP demand, backed by many in the Conservative Party and beyond, “To take back control of our borders”.
It is difficult to see how this demand could be delivered if Eastern Europeans were able to travel to Scotland, still inside the EU, then simply walk over the border into England. The remorseless logic of this situation would demand the building of either a fence or a wall, some 2,000 years after Hadrian’s. Farage is often accused of wanting to turn the clock back to the 1950s; this would be turning it back to 122A.D.
Meanwhile Eastern Europeans would be able to travel to the Republic of Ireland and then cross the border into Northern Ireland. Cue the need for a second wall, a state of affairs that the Irish government has warned of on several occasions, which, given we didn’t even have one at the height of The Troubles, would be a monstrously depressing. It gets worse, the Royal United Services Institute has warned that the negative consequences of leaving the EU are so severe for Northern Ireland that it could re-emerge “as a major political, security and economic crisis for future governments in London”.
Twenty-five years on from the fall of the Berlin Wall and the ensuing re-unification of Germany the United Kingdom may be about to crash the gears of European history into reverse.
Do we really want to do this?
"Nobody has the intention of building a wall," said the East German head of state Walter Ulbricht on June 15, 1961. On 13 August, the same year, work began on the Berlin Wall.