These Petitions For London Becoming Independent Casts A Grim Shadow On Britain's Unity
After a slim majority of citizens in Great Britain voted for the country to leave the European Union earlier this month, thousands have signed a petition pushing for London's independence from the nation, further complicating the UK's possible exit from the 28-member politico-economic alliance. From the moment that "Brexit" became a possibility, it has been extremely controversial. Ultimately, 52 percent of referendum voters from England, Wales, North Ireland, and Scotland supported leaving the EU. The decision, however, doesn't reflect the opinion of the people of London. In fact, residents in the capital strongly opposed Brexit by a nearly 20-point margin. Now, the repercussions of the UK's move are beginning to point towards factionalism. But is #LondExit really a legitimate strategy?
Less than a week ago, James O'Malley used Change.org to petition London Mayor Sadiq Khan to "declare London independent from the UK and apply to join the EU." In just days, it went viral, garnering over 177,000 signatures and inspiring the hashtag "LonDependence" and "LondExit" on Twitter. In a speech on Tuesday, Mayor Khan recognized the attention, ultimately rejecting the idea but calling for greater autonomy nonetheless:
As much as I might like the idea of a London city state, I'm not seriously talking about independence today ... But on behalf of all Londoners, I am demanding more autonomy for the capital — right now. More autonomy in order to protect London's economy from the uncertainty ahead, to protect the businesses from around the world who trade here and to protect our jobs, wealth and prosperity.
Though Londoners received the short end of the stick on Brexit, threatening secession and independence might not be the best route of action right now. Comparing the British referendum system to the United State's primary elections lends a concurring perspective. For example, Colorado's voters favored Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton by a 20-point margin. Because their vote didn't match that of the United States' overall majority, however, Hillary Clinton will become the Democratic nominee in July. Colorado knew the pros and cons of being united with other states, and they aren't trying to become independent. And if London did succeed in becoming independent, it would provide ammo for other regions within the UK to do the same in retaliation to any referendum. In other words, it would make it difficult to draw the line as to when compromise is and isn't enough.
Instead of signing a petition for independence, Londoners may be better off petitioning for a new EU referendum. The petition, which is addressed to the UK's government, has already gained 2.5 million signatures, and stands a greater chance of inducing systematic change.