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Requirement: Suspend disbelief for sci-fi parody story

Story idea: Donald Trump wins US presidential elections. One US state rebels against it and leaves USA. People of that state also gain confidence in "We have been under The United Kingdom, so lets go back" and decide to join the Commonwealth.

The Queen becomes also head of that state, and if possible, that state should also abandon the dollar and accept the pound.

Working assumption: Majority of citizens of that ex-US state agree with whats going to happen. Also majority of UK people agree with such decision.

Now, while I had great laugh imagining such story, I do not think it is even legally plausible to do so. All I need is plausible explanation if the above is doable and if so, how.

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    $\begingroup$ If I'm reading the entry requirements correctly, only the colonies established prior to the Revolution would qualify under the Edinburgh Criteria. Regardless, this question seems predominantly story-based. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Apr 27 '16 at 19:16
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    $\begingroup$ you do realize that most countries in the commonwealth are not using the pound, right? (and several are using various kinds of dollar) $\endgroup$ – njzk2 Apr 27 '16 at 21:18
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    $\begingroup$ The last time States tried to leave the Union it didn't end well..... $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Apr 28 '16 at 2:20
  • $\begingroup$ One thing at would help would be the Declaration of Independence, which on it somewhere (I think) says people have a right and responsibility to secede from corrupt governments. $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Apr 28 '16 at 4:26
  • $\begingroup$ There is no such thing as a currency of the Commonwealth of Nations, and the pound sterling is only the currency of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and British Oversea Territories (or at least some of them). It's unlikely your state would use the pound. $\endgroup$ – AmiralPatate Apr 28 '16 at 16:55
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The first thing is to pick a state which shares a border with Canada.

Unless you do this, the state will be surrounded by the US. This will obviously be a problem from a military point of view, but just as importantly will be economically disastrous. The US can effectively embargo the runaway state, and cause almost immediate economic collapse. The Commonwealth will not, practically speaking, be able to do much, as the US will maintain that the state has not legally seceded from the Union, and its fate is therefor not any business of the Commonwealth. And it's hard to imagine the Commonwealth willing to get into a shoving match with Uncle Sam over some hotheads they don't know.

Things get much more interesting if the state borders on Canada. In theory, unless the US military stages an invasion of the ex-state, it can begin trading with Canada and keep from starving.

What is really needed is to find a justification for the Commonwealth to care enough about a bunch of renegade Yanks enough to get into a really major tiff with the US. Given the historical record (specifically, the Late Unpleasantness), the US is almost certainly willing to bring the sinners back into the fold by military force, and for the forseeable future (say, 20 years) the US is going to be the 800 pound grizzly in the neighborhood.

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    $\begingroup$ I see the point about the impracticality of secession for a state entirely surrounded by the rUS (to adapt a term from the debate prior to the referendum on Scottish independence), but you don't need a border with Canada. Hawaii doesn't border Canada, but it isn't surrounded either. They wouldn't even have to change the state flag: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flag_of_Hawaii. Aloha to the Crown Colony of Hawaii! Soon, we trust, the remainder of the American insurrectionists will also see the error of their ways. $\endgroup$ – Lostinfrance Apr 28 '16 at 6:49
  • $\begingroup$ Canada makes the most sense if the state is Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, or New York. Bordering states further west were never part of the British colonies, so that portion of the argument wouldn't work. Hawaii would have a lot of advantages over other states in seceding, but there's no real reason to think that it would have any interest in joining the UK. $\endgroup$ – Brythan Apr 28 '16 at 17:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Lostinfrance - Yes, that pesky Hawaii. $\endgroup$ – WhatRoughBeast Apr 28 '16 at 21:20
  • $\begingroup$ Alaska would be the obvious choice if you want a border with Canada and a believable chance of succeeding. Huge resource loss to the US (so maximum conflict potential). Far enough away that in order to get it back US would have to start a war with Canada. However, not so great if you want a lot of problems caused by "how do we create a border?", people who can't stand Trump migrating to the country en masse, sneaking across the border, etc. $\endgroup$ – Francine DeGrood Taylor Apr 29 '16 at 16:25
  • $\begingroup$ @Brythan Au contraire, Washington, Oregon, and Idaho were once disputed territory between the US, Britain, and Russia. We nearly went to war with Britain over this; the slogan "Fifty-four Forty or Fight!" refers to the latitude of the upper extent of the US claim. Instead, we went to war with Mexico over Texas and settled on the 49th parallel as the border. You betcha if the UK really wanted the Pacific Northwest in the Commonwealth they'd use this former claim as "exceptional circumstances... considered on a case-by-case basis". $\endgroup$ – Schwern May 2 '16 at 20:35
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Leaving the US is by far the biggest hurdle.

Unless the secession is approved by the rest of US the commonwealth would not accept the state. In order to accept the state it would have to accept the state as independent. To do so would go against the interests of the rest of the US, and that is not going to happen because the US is a too important ally of the UK for the UK to antagonize her in this manner.

If that hurdle is overcome then the next big hurdle is the Commonwealth membership criteria. In order to become a Commonwealth member, it is required that a territory or state be independent and either a former colony of the British empire or constitutionally linked to an existing member. This creates a problem if the state is not one of the original thirteen colonies.

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Well if you have bent reality so far that you have gotten a state to leave the union, then the premise is already so wild that you can let pretty much anything happen after that.

CGP Grey explains why: https://youtu.be/S92fTz_-kQE

EDIT: To explain in greater detail...

Secession is not in any state or national constitution. Secession has been before the Supreme Court of the US and they said "No". Also the support for secession, nationally and in most states is very slim. This put together means that in order for a state to end up in such a state (no pun intended) that they would break out of the union, well then things are so far into fantasy-land that you as the author can let pretty much anything happen after that.

To make an analogue, the question is if someone asked "If is plausible that the laws of physics would allow a magic genie to leap over tall buildings in a single bound?". Answer: yes, because you stated yourself that it is magic, anything is possible then. Same with your question: if you deviated so far from real life that a state has seceeded from the union, then everything is up in the air and you are free to keep making stuff up.

So to answer: "I do not think it is even legally plausible to do so. All I need is plausible explanation if the above is doable and if so, how."

If you have made it plausible for them to leave the union — which is the big showstopper in your scenario — then you have automatically made it plausible for them to join another.

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  • $\begingroup$ Nor is the dv mine $\endgroup$ – JDSweetBeat Apr 28 '16 at 16:12
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Can rebelling US state join the commonwealth?

Sure, it's possible. Countries declare they own things they don't all the time. Look up the Guano Islands Act where the US said they owned any unowned island that had bird poop on it and they didn't check too hard to see if anyone already owned it. No, really.

Is it legal? No. By your definition they're rebelling and it would probably lead to war with both the rebelling state and the UK.

Here's a better question...

Can a US state join the British Commonwealth without a war?

First thing to clarify: the British Commonwealth is not an empire. It's more of a treaty organization. The rules of this treaty organization would override state and Federal law. For this reason, treaties are a thing reserved for the Federal government, so a state can't just join the Commonwealth.

Second thing to clarify: there's no Commonwealth requirement you take the Queen as your head of state. She is the current Head Of The Commonwealth (that's not automatic). Members of the Commonwealth are independent nations, some with their own monarchs.

This gives a state wiggle room to join the Commonwealth without leaving the US. A state could get the US President and Congress to ratify a treaty agreeing their state is a member of the British Commonwealth and subject to its treaty requirements only in that state. I don't know why Congress would agree to that (maybe they need a lot of money or a loan forgiven), but it's probably legal enough.


But you probably meant specifically for a state to leave the US, form its own nation, and join the Commonwealth. This leads us to the next problem: there is no legal framework for a state to secede from the US. Everything which has been proposed has already in this answer has long since been shot down. I covered this in an answer on History.SE. The idea that a state can just decide not to follow a law or treaty is called Nullification. The idea that the US is a voluntary collection of states who can leave at any time is called Compact Theory. Both of these were shot down in multiple court rulings in the early 19th century.

Even if every person in a state decided to secede, that is not enough. The country as a whole must decide. "We The People" is all the people of the US, not just one state.

Furthermore, section 1 of the 14th amendment made it abundantly clear that a state cannot take away your citizenship.

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

You can voluntarily give up your citizenship, but the state can't take it away.

The only way a state can leave the Union is if the rest of the States agree to it. There's so many constitutional problems with doing that by act of legislature it will probably require a constitutional amendment ratified by 3/4ths of the states. It would either specifically declare the state no longer part of the Union (and what happens to its citizens), or to make a process to leave the Union. A constitutional amendment can override other parts of the constitution.

Again, I don't know why the other states would agree to this, I guess that's your story.


This brings up the next problem, what happens to the US citizens in that state? What about their property? What about their businesses and their property?

Let's say you came up with some clever way to get the Federal government to sell or give away the land, like people who have been saying we could sell them Alaska. The US Federal Government might be able to get away with this under a pretty extreme interpretation of Eminent Domain.

US citizens can voluntarily renounce their citizenship, but under the 14th amendment it's unlikely the US could strip state citizens of their citizenship. AFAIK citizenship can only be stripped with evidence of treasonous acts or fraud, but I don't have a SCOTUS ruling to back that up. Now you have the problem of a bunch of US citizens suddenly being stripped of the protections of living in the US. Suddenly they're living in a foreign country with foreign laws. They might not even be allowed to stay!

They (and their corporations) will probably have to be compensated under the Takings Clause of the 5th amendment. Normally this is the current market value of the property being taken. If they decide to/have to leave there's also compensation for their difficulties in relocating. Where it gets fuzzier is if the US must compensate a US citizen for effectively stripping them of the laws and protections of the United States by redrawing the borders around them, and if so how much?

This compensation for the citizens who live in the leaving state, and the likely endless legal battles, makes selling a state unlikely to turn a profit.

Then there's all the Federal assets in the state. Highways, military bases, Federal lands, transportation facilities... all this would likely have to be either moved out or, if it can't be moved, bought by the state.

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Disagree with the current interpretation of the US constitution

The best way is if there are issues with the US constitution that the state firmly disagrees with. Or, to be more specific, that there are issues with gun laws, medical laws or voting laws that that specific state wants but the US supreme court deems unconstitutional. Or if it refuses to ratify bills imposed by the federal government and the supreme court orders it to do it anyway.

So, yeah, the supreme court has ruled it impossible to leave the union, so in the story it needs to be that court that your state antagonizes the most. The state in question wants their own interpretation of the constitution and asks the commonwealth for help. Because you can't use ceding from the union as a way to get out of debt - that won't fly with basically every other nation out there. And having backers to support your case in UN really helps, of course.

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  • $\begingroup$ Because the UN actually does useful things, the U.K. supports our constitution as opposed to theirs, and the U.K. has less strict gun laws, right? I mean, that makes total sense to me. $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Apr 28 '16 at 4:24
  • $\begingroup$ @XandarTheZenon, more strict gun laws might be the point. If the people of a state really wanted to have government-organized healthcare and ban guns, and the SC said no, what can they do? $\endgroup$ – o.m. Apr 28 '16 at 5:31
  • $\begingroup$ +1 for "you can't use ceding from the union as a way to get out of debt - that won't fly with basically every other nation out there." It particularly would not fly with Her Majesty's Treasury if there were the slightest hint that accepting a former US state back into the fold also meant accepting its liabilities. $\endgroup$ – Lostinfrance Apr 28 '16 at 8:07
  • $\begingroup$ Wow, I am shocked. The Supreme Court just made a wise decision without Anronin Scalia! It's a miracle! And at that point I agree with you. If the majority of the state thinks that, we should be rid of them. You won me over. $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Apr 28 '16 at 12:37
  • $\begingroup$ If i remember there was an argument that the first 13 states could leverage the language in the Declaration of Independence where it defined them “free and independent states.” to obtain legal right of secession... $\endgroup$ – Erik vanDoren Apr 28 '16 at 15:58
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All I need is plausible explanation if the above is doable and if so, how.

Through the Sale of the State

Historically, even populated areas of nations have come under the rule of another nation by the sale of the property from one sovereign to another. Although I think typically it has been the sale of territories, not proper states.

However, given your scenario, it would not be unimaginable for Trump to convince the rest of the population to support the sale of a state to pay off foreign debt or finance a better place for the rest of the US. Especially given your parameters that the state is asking to leave and the UK is accepting of it.

So, the UK forgives some US debt and they get a state. Maybe they borrow some money from Russia to finance it? Like a reverse Seward's Folly. I'm not sure how this stacks up against the US Constitution (I don't think it prohibits the Federal Government from agreeing to a sale, although it might not be able to force a sale), but it's certainly more acceptable than any forced situation or reversal of a previous court decision.

And, I think this answer is pretty much as hilarious as the question! :) And as absurd as it sounds, it has at least one source to support it - and it even mentions Mr. Trump! https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/to-solve-our-debt-problems-lets-sell-alaska/2012/12/14/1c63c1d6-4352-11e2-9648-a2c323a991d6_story.html

EDIT:

Just to clarify, the sale of a state does not necessarily give the new sovereign ownership of the land. It would transfer the rights, responsibilities and authority to the new sovereign. In other words, the UK would now have the right to tax land, and people would still own their land the same as people in the UK own land in the presence of a Monarchy.

Further, when sovereign changes occur, it is rarely with the agreement or to the benefit of all citizens. Citizenship, rights, differences in laws, existing contracts that now have illegal terms, etc. are addressed according to the terms of the sale and subsequent legal processes.

Last - the OP's question is based on a "sci-fi parody story" which I think allows us to do a little "hand-waving" of some of these details, while still allowing some room for bizarre/humorous situations in the story. This answer is not definitively possible, but it is plausible.

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  • $\begingroup$ It's questionable if the US government can sell a state. If they did so, they would have to compensate every citizen (and probably business) living there under due process (5th and 14th ammendments). There's also the slight problem of what happens to the citizens. $\endgroup$ – Schwern Apr 29 '16 at 18:24
  • $\begingroup$ haha! Yeah, the citizens may not all like the sale. As for citizen compensation, please see my edit. This is not "imminent domain" $\endgroup$ – Jim May 1 '16 at 22:28
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I'm not sure about joining the UK, but it might be possible to secede a state.

The supreme court did rule that secession is not unilaterally possible for a state. However, it may be possible to make a constitutional argument to have this overturned. In particular, the constitution goes into some detail on how to create a state either from territories or existing states (Article IV, section 3). Notably, no mention is made of a state leaving the Union. Further, the tenth amendment reads

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

The basic argument then becomes leaving the Union isn't explicitly provided for, thus it's the right of individual states.

Humorously, one might expand this interpretation to mean any individual citizen could boot out any state just because it's not prohibited.

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Yes. If a state could successfully secede, and if the Commonwealth was willing to accept them and deal with the political outcome, then yes, I can't see why not.

But those are two huge, unlikely ifs.

On seceding... lets say the people of Mass. decide they really no longer want to be part of the US now that The Donald is running the show. They declare independence. Conventional thinking is that they can't do that because the US would use military force against them, as was done during the Civil War. But that was the 1860's. I'm not so sure that the people of 2016 would really be willing to see US military force used against their former fellow citizens. I certainly wouldn't. The Civil War had a moral/ethical factor, slavery, that this situation would not have. So as long as the state had the internal fortitude to declare and start acting independently, and no one was physically stopping them, they'd be independent.

The state's biggest issue would be internal conflict, as certainly a non-negligible portion of the population may oppose secession. If there was violence, that's where it would come from.

There would also be quite a long period of diplomacy, some of it possibly very aggressive and antagonistic. And then negotiations, as the US has assets within the state that would have to be either returned or compensated for. IMO, such negotiations would drag on longer than a single Presidential term, making the entire move fairly pointless.

If for some reason the US refused to acknowledge the free state of Mass., then what you may end up with is something akin to Taiwan & China. With one being independent, and the other refusing to accept it. And the Commonwealth would have to wonder if they want to be dragged into that.

But I think such a move would all be for naught, because four or eight years later, when President Kanye took over, they'd be wanting back in. Fo' Shizzle.

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The most realistic states for secession are Alaska and Texas, but neither has any real reason to join the United Kingdom. They were not part of the British colonies.

When the USA bought Alaska from Russia, it gave the USA a claim on Alaska. Canada also had a claim on Alaska. If Alaska seceded, they might reasonably join Canada under that legal pretext. Technically, Canada is still part of the British Empire with the queen as their head of state. If that is sufficient for you, that would be possible. Note that Canada does not use the British pound. It's unclear though why Alaska would leave due to Trump and join the more liberal Canada.

There are are some people that claim that the annexation of Texas was processed in a way that leaves them able to secede legally even if other states can't. However, Texas was never a British colony and seems unlikely to join the UK. It was in a territory claimed by both the USA and Mexico. If they seceded, it seems more likely that they would go it alone. Perhaps southern Texas might join Mexico. Politically they don't seem that opposed to Trump nor friendly to the UK.

According to Mother Jones, North Carolina is the only original British colony that has a nuclear weapons site.

Challenges of your scenario:

  1. Trump needs to win the presidency.

  2. A state needs to dislike Trump enough to secede even though his national numbers move enough to allow him to win the presidency.

  3. The USA must not force the state to stay in the union.

  4. The state must want to join the UK.

  5. The UK must be mad enough at Trump to accept this state.

I think that the first and second challenges are the most difficult to reconcile. If Trump wins the presidency, he needs to win the popular vote. If his vote share increases enough to support that, then it seems unlikely that he will still be unpopular enough to lead a state to secede. While Trump is a polarizing figure, his support is still broad-based. For example, men like Trump better than women do. But men and women are distributed in pretty much the same proportions throughout the US. How do you get the pro-Trump men out and the anti-Trump women in?

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  • $\begingroup$ Actually the only state where this could make sense would be Texas... they have the land, people, military presence, and natural resources to actually survive economically. It really wouldn't fit the situation... More likely they'd secede if Trump loses and then they just go for independence with Trump at the proverbial helm... $\endgroup$ – Vogie Apr 28 '16 at 20:53

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