Brexit could spell the end of United Kingdom – William Hague

Britain's leader of the House of Commons William Hague © Stefan Wermuth
Britain voting to leave the European Union could spark the end of the United Kingdom, former Foreign Secretary William Hague has warned. He said a Brexit would give Scottish nationalists impetus for a second independence referendum.

Hague, known to be a Euroskeptic, wrote in the Telegraph on Wednesday he would support remaining in the bloc despite his own misgivings.

We will have to ask, disliking so many aspects of it as we do, whether we really want to weaken it, and at the same time increase the chances, if the UK left the EU, of Scotland leaving the UK,” he wrote.

The former minister made the remarks after Prime Minister David Cameron met with European leaders in Brussels last week to persuade officials to back his plans to reform Britain’s relationship with the EU.

Hague wrote it would not be in British interests to leave the bloc, which offers many nations in the continent stability.

He said Scottish nationalists, who support the EU, would use a Brexit as a means of securing another independence referendum, the result of which would be too close to call. In the first referendum in September 2014, Scots voted to stay in the UK 55 to 45 percent.

“To end up destroying the United Kingdom and gravely weakening the European Union would not be a very clever day’s work,” Hague wrote. “So, even as a longstanding critic of so much of that struggling organization, I am unlikely in 2016 to vote to leave it.”

Hague’s remarks come as a vice-Chairman of the Conservative Party suggested ministers who wish to campaign to leave the bloc should resign and stop “undermining” the prime minister.

Mark Field is the first senior Tory to publicly dismiss the idea of a free vote for MPs, saying it would be “wrong” for members of the Cabinet to back a British withdrawal from the EU.

It was revealed on Tuesday evening that the ‘out’ campaign’s spending would be capped at £11 million in the final weeks of the campaign, whereas campaigners for the ‘in’ campaign would be allowed to spend as much as £17 million.

Due to the way funding is allocated within the parties, Labour, which has its own campaign to keep Britain in the EU, has a spending limit of £5.5 million. The Liberal Democrats can spend £3 million and the Scottish National Party (SNP) and Greens £700,000 each, which takes the total spending to £16.9 million.

The Conservatives, who can spend £7 million, say they will remain neutral, while anti-EU UKIP is allowed to spend £4 million, taking their total to £11 million.

A referendum on British membership of the EU will take place before the end of 2016.