31 December 2011

United States of Anglophonia

In a recent comment piece in The Times (£), David Aaronovitch, no doubt with tongue firmly in cheek, proposed that the UK, having given up on Europe, should join the USA rather than go it alone. His proposal was that:
… the nations of the United Kingdom become the 51st, 52nd, 53rd and 54th states of what might be known as the United States of America and the East Atlantic.
Joining the US would mean Prince Charles not succeeding to the throne after his mother, but would also suggest that this was nothing personal. The Royal Family would continue in theme-park fashion, with hundreds of millions of additional fans in the other states.
which in part matches someone else’s predictions. He concluded:
Reader, as we enter 2012, please say that you too can see by the dawn’s early light, catching the gleam of the morning’s first beam, the contours of our Atlantic destiny.
Switzerland? Meh.
I don’t think Aaronovitch would make much of a negotiator. Consider. The population of the USA is about 313 million and that of the UK a bit over 62 million. Our accession would therefore represent a 20% increase in the number of US citizens and so would justify the number of states in the union increasing from 50 to 60. The population of a state is about 6.2 million on average but ranges from that of the smallest, Wyoming with just over ½ million, to the largest, California with nearly 38 million. So Aaronovitch’s proposal that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each become states seems quite reasonable (see table below).

However, England would then need to be divided into the remaining seven states, and while this might be problematic (to put it mildly), the existing nine regions provide a basis for this to be done as the diagram below shows.

The obvious two candidates for removal are the North East by merger with Yorkshire and the Humber, together a respectable 7.5 million population, and the East Midlands by merger with the West. But the combined Midlands would be 8.7 million, so shedding Worcestershire and Herefordshire to the South West would be in order. The latter could be raised further to about 5 million population if the bloated South East were to lose Oxfordshire. The result would be a set of seven states-to-be with populations between 5.3 and 7.4 million, nicely straddling the US average.

And finally, on a parochial South Western note, in his article Aaronovitch suggested that Wales would take on the nickname of the Dragon state. Here in the state of South West England, although Plymouth was the final departure port of the Pilgrim Fathers, we would probably have to make do with Mayflower state (after their ship), Pilgrim being already in use for Massachusetts.  Also, there might be an interesting first senatorial race in a part of the UK which up until the last election had become mostly split between Liberal Democrats and Conservatives. If all the Conservatives (blue in the UK) become Republicans (red in the US), and Labour (red) moved entirely to the Democrats (blue), would the Liberal Democrats just stop being Liberal so Democrats would win both Senate seats? As they used to say in these parts, a pig would win with a blue ribbon!

Great fun, but it ain’t going to happen! Anyway Puerto Rico and Washington DC are ahead of us in the queue.

(UK population statistics 2010/11 from ONS, here)


  1. Why would England need to be divided in the (very) unlikely event of the UK's accession to the US?

    Let's assume this could happen, and the 51st, 52nd, 53rd and 54th states become a reality, that would mean England, Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland ceasinng to be cinstituent parts of the UK and instead becoming States of the United States. So why the need to divide England? There are already huge differences in population between America's states. California has a population of 40 million, while Wyoming has just over half a million - barely one percent of California! All that would happen is England would be the most populous US state - around 50 million, while the other three would be fairly typical population wise.

    I agree the UK joining the US is highly unlikely, but hthere would be no real reason to divide England up, and more than you would need to divvy up California or Texas.

  2. Thank you for your comment. Your proposal is the one made by David Aaronovitch in his article. Mine, which was very much written tongue-in-cheek, was an exploration of the consequences of an alternative: 20% more US population should mean 20% more states. Then England would have to be broken up into regions, one of which would be the South West, which is one of the themes of this blog. Like you, I think it's very unlikely to happen, but like most bloggers, I'm very grateful to any reader interested enough to comment.