GAVIN ESLER is an award winning television and radio broadcaster, novelist and journalist. He is the author of five novels and four non-fiction books, most recently How Britain Ends – English Nationalism and the Re-birth of Four Nations. It’s a forensic examination of the way in which resurgent English nationalism is pulling the United Kingdom apart. It follows Lessons from the Top, a study of how leaders tell stories to make other people follow them, based on personal encounters with a wide variety of leaders, from Bill Clinton and Angela Merkel to Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher, and even cultural leaders such as Dolly Parton.
In the past, it was possible to live with delightful confusion: one could be English or British, Scottish or Irish, and a citizen/subject of the United Kingdom (or Great Britain). For years that state has been what Gavin Esler calls a ‘secret federation’, but without the explicit federal arrangements that allow Germany or the USA to survive.
Now the archaic state, which doesn’t have a written constitution, is coming under terrible strain. The English revolt against Europe is also a revolt against the awkward squads of the Scottish and Irish, and most English conservatives would be happy to get rid of Northern Ireland and Scotland as the price of getting Brexit done. The pressures to declare Scottish independence and to push for a border poll that would unite Ireland may become irresistible.
Can England and Wales find a way of dealing with the state’s new place in the world? What constitutional, federal arrangements might prevent the disintegration of the British state, which has survived in its present form for 400 years? How Britain Ends is a book about history, but also about the strange, complicated identity of Britishness