John Kyle: It is time that all unionist leaders began to articulate a new and compelling case for our unique United Kingdom

The Queen and Prince Philip at St John's College, at the University of Cambridge. Institutions such as the monarchy, universities and BBC are still the envy of much of the world, says John Kyle. Photo: Chris Radburn/PA Wire
The Queen and Prince Philip at St John's College, at the University of Cambridge. Institutions such as the monarchy, universities and BBC are still the envy of much of the world, says John Kyle. Photo: Chris Radburn/PA Wire
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Never mind the Ulstermen, it is time to stand up for the United Kingdom.

Fifty nine per cent of Conservative Party members, according to a recent YouGov poll, would rather see Northern Ireland split from the United Kingdom than lose Brexit.

Dr John Kyle, the former leader of the Progressive Unionist Party. He is a councillor in Belfast

Dr John Kyle, the former leader of the Progressive Unionist Party. He is a councillor in Belfast

Scotland should feel even less loved, a whacking 63% of Conservative Party members would apparently jettison Scotland if it meant delivering Brexit.

And these are members of the Conservative and Unionist Party, the party that is supposed to champion the United Kingdom.

Self-interest is a powerful thing.

But they are not alone in treating the United Kingdom with casual disregard.

Nobody at present seems to be too concerned about the UK, or the impact their words and actions are having on the stability of this partnership of tribes and nations.

The centrifugal forces of Brexit are fragmenting families, communities and nations but the unravelling of the United Kingdom, overlooked because of daily brawls between and among Brexiteers and Remainers, is surely the most serious.

We neglect it at our peril.

The United Kingdom is unique; a remarkable political construct, a partnership of nations that is much more than the sum of its parts.

An entity that has profoundly influenced the history of the past century, it has been a beacon of democracy, a powerhouse of scientific discovery and innovation, a font of creativity that has enriched every sphere of the arts and a leading influence for international order and peace.

Like every nation there are parts of our history that are not just ignoble but shameful, however western civilisation owes much to the legacies of British social reformers such as Wilberforce, Shaftesbury, Nightingale and Beveridge.

And, as a bonus, we have given the world football, rugby, cricket and golf.

Our institutions, while imperfect, have been and still are the envy of much of the world — the National Health System, the BBC, an independent and rigorously impartial judicial system, the monarchy and the universities.

The transparency of our political and public institutions, largely free form institutional corruption and scrutinised by an independent media, is uncommon today.

Our economy, despite the travails of the past century, has proved resilient and is globally the fifth largest.

The tolerance, fairness and generosity of the British character has resulted in a genuinely multicultural society.

And devolution has preserved the Union while allowing each nation the latitude to express its uniqueness and shape its evolution.

All four nations — England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — have contributed to the matrix that has created such social, economic, scientific and intellectual wealth.

I love the Irish, and recognise an Irish dimension to my identity, but I am immensely proud to be a citizen of the United Kingdom.

We live in a time of instability, the shearing forces of nationalism (English, Scottish and Irish Republican) are straining relationships to breaking point.

It is time that all unionist leaders began to articulate a new and compelling rationale for the Union and a coherent vision for the future.

I am ready for this, is anyone else?

• Dr John Kyle is a former leader of the Progressive Unionist Party who is a councillor in Belfast