We cannot live very much longer under the confusions of the existing ‘international’ economy and the existing ‘nation-state’. If we cannot find and communicate social forms of more substance than these, we shall be condemned to endure the accelerating pace of false and frenetic nationalisms and of reckless and uncontrollable global transnationalism. Moreover, even endurance is then an optimistic estimate. These are political forms that now limit, subordinate and destroy people. We have to begin again with people and build new political forms.
(Raymond Williams, ‘The Culture of Nations’, 1983) 1
The preceding chapters have indicated the need to transcend the chronic sovereignty neurosis that has bedevilled relations between these islands for too long. 2 There are multiple signals of change in this regard. The diminution of national sovereignties in the context of increased EU integration, the correlative move towards regional development and the ongoing constitutional debates in both Britain and the Republic, all gesture toward new possibilities of co-existence. The notion of national ‘self-determination’, as expounded by Woodrow Wilson after the First World War and legitimately invoked by many developing post-colonial countries, no longer has the same relevance in the context of these islands. 3 ‘No surrender’ and ‘Ourselves alone’ are catch-cries of the past.
Within the outer periphery of the evolving European community, it is probable, and certainly desirable, that the residents of these islands may rediscover themselves as a new inner circle, both geographically and culturally. The argument for a pooling of sovereignty has come from both nationalist and unionist quarters. The advocacy of people like