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English independence is a political stance advocating secession of England, the largest and most populous country of the British Isles, from the United Kingdom. Support for secession of England has been influenced by the increasing devolution of political powers to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, where independence from the United Kingdom is a prominent subject of political debate.
English independence is seen by its advocates as a way to resolve the West Lothian question in British politics: Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs in the Parliament of the United Kingdom at Westminster can vote on matters affecting England, while English MPs do not have the same power over equivalent issues in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as these powers are devolved to the Scottish Parliament, Northern Ireland Assembly or the National Assembly for Wales.
While some minor political parties have campaigned for English independence, all major UK-wide political parties adhere to the opposing view of British unionism, and oppose altering the constitutional status of England. Scottish demands for independence, rather than English demands, were seen as the most pressing threat to British unity, until Scotland voted against independence at the referendum on 18 September 2014.
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The English national identity developed over a long period of time. The Kingdom of England came into being in the 10th century: it spanned much of the southern two-thirds of Great Britain and a number of smaller outlying islands. The Norman conquest of Wales from 1067–1283 (formalized by the Statute of Rhuddlan in 1284) placed Wales under English control, and Wales came under English law with the Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542, which disestablished the Principality of Wales.
In 1603, the Union of the Crowns took place when the death of Elizabeth I resulted in James VI, King of Scots, acceding to the English throne, placing England and Scotland under personal union. In 1707, the Acts of Union were passed by both the Parliament of England and the Parliament of Scotland, forming the Kingdom of Great Britain. The measure was deeply unpopular in both Scotland and England. The Scottish signatories to the Act were forced to sign the documents in secrecy because of mass rioting and unrest in the Scottish capital, Edinburgh. Scotland did however retain Scots law, a legal system distinct from that used in England and Wales.
In 1800, the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland both passed new Acts of Union, creating the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. In 1921, the Anglo-Irish Treaty was agreed, allowing Southern Ireland under the Irish Free State to become a Dominion, resulting in only Northern Ireland remaining within the UK, which in 1927 was formally renamed the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Arguments for English independence
Advocates of English sovereignty state that a sovereign England would enjoy one of the world's strongest economies, with an estimated GDP of US$2.865 trillion as of 2015, making it the world's 5th, 6th, or 7th largest economy depending on measurement. It is also claimed that England would be the 15th wealthiest nation in the world, with a GDP per capita of US$51,669. Compare this with $43,378 for Scotland, $30,546 for Walesand $31,698 for Northern Ireland, or $37,659 for the UK minus England.
Along with London, the leading major world city and the world's largest financial centre, as its capital, England would continue to possess an enviable education system that includes some of the world's most prestigious universities, with the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge and colleges of the University of London regularly featuring among the top 10 of the QS World University Rankings.
The English nationalist movement has its roots in a historical legacy which predates the United Kingdom and which is quite capable of including new entrants to the country of England.[clarification needed] The rise in English identity in recent years, as evidenced by the increased display of the English flag (particularly during international sporting competitions and in relation to their football team), is sometimes attributed in the media to the increased devolution of political power to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. One possible incentive for the establishment of self-governing English political institutions is the West Lothian question: the constitutional inconsistency whereby MPs from all four nations of the UK can vote on matters that solely affect England, while those same matters are reserved to the devolved assemblies of the other nations. (For example the Scottish MP for West Lothian has a say on policing in the West Midlands.)
Contemporary English nationalist movements differ significantly from mainstream Scottish, Welsh and Cornish nationalist movements (whilst similar to some strands of Irish nationalism) insofar as they are often associated with support for right-of-centre economic and social policies. Nationalists elsewhere in the UK tend towards a social democratic political stance. English nationalism is also often associated with Euroscepticism: one reason for opposition to the EU is the view that England is being arbitrarily subdivided into regions at the behest of the European Union.
Polling data for English devolution and independence may be found in the table below.
|Date||Independence (%)||Status Quo (%)||English parliament (%)||English votes for English laws (%)||Regional Assemblies (%)||End Devolution (%)||Don't know/None (%)|
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A political party campaigning for English Independence was formed in February 2008, the Free England Party, it achieving some minor electoral success before disbanding in December 2009. Currently the only political party supportive of English Independence are the English Democrats. Other pro-English independence parties include the English Radical Alliance, English Independence Party and One England.
- Fraser Nelson (16 April 2008). "Alex Salmond is nudging the English towards independence without them realising it". The Spectator.
- "Plaid Cymru". English.plaidcymru.org. 8 November 2012. Retrieved 2014-02-21.
- "SNP". Snp.org. 8 November 2012. Retrieved 2014-02-21.
- Tim Luckhurst (9 May 2010). "The English question is still unanswered". The Independent.
- Alex Salmond (20 March 2007). "Only Scottish independence can solve the 'English Question'". The Telegraph.
- Rupa Huq (23 April 2010). "The chimera of an English parliament". The Guardian.
- James Macintyre (28 March 2010). "Would the UK break up under the Conservatives?". New Statesman.; http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/
- Scottish Government. "Key Economy Statistics". Scotland.gov.uk. Retrieved 17 June 2013.
- "Britain overtakes US as top financial centre". Telegraph. 2009-10-08. Retrieved 2014-02-21.
- "QS World University Rankings - 2012". Top Universities. 2012-12-19. Retrieved 2014-02-21.
- English Democrats seek independence for England. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-26583314