Very interesting answer on Quora!
What would happen if the UK joined the United States as a new state?
Brent Royal-Gordon, codesmith, alumnus of the University of Kent at Canterbury, England
Let us suppose that a 51st state, the British Isles, were admitted to the Union. (I’ll explain the name change in a moment. And yes, calling it “British Isles” would not be accurate because it wouldn’t include the Republic of Ireland, but Baja California didn’t stop us from calling my state “California”, either.)
To begin with, here’s a statement that will put things in proportion: In the newly enlarged United States, 16% of the population would be in the British Isles. Its population would be slightly smaller than the entire Midwest combined. There is no current state that’s as large as the British Isles would be—California is a little more than half its size. London would be neck-and-neck with New York for the title of America’s largest city (they both had populations of around 8.4 million about five years ago).
The UK could instead be split up, with the four constituent countries becoming four separate states, but because it contains 82% of the UK’s population, England would still be the largest US state, comparable to the entire Northeast. Scotland would be about the size of Colorado; Wales would be similar to Iowa; and Northern Ireland comparable to West Virginia. However, I don’t think splitting the UK in this fashion would make much sense; the devolved country-specific parliaments do not have nearly the authority of the national parliament in Westminster, and shuffling that power around in the middle of the transition to statehood seems like a nightmarish task that would put even Brexit to shame.
I have not done the math myself, but I have no reason to doubt Kelly Kinkade’s number below: the British Isles would have a Congressional delegation of 2 Senators and 75 Representatives. If admitted as four separate states, they would instead have a total of 8 Senators, and they might gain a couple more Representatives between them.
The Constitution of the United States most likely could not be amended to accommodate British demands. Even whatever treaty the US and UK made to create the union would not be able to do so. Treaties cannot change the Constitution; only an amendment passed and ratified under Article Five can do that. The amendment process requires the approval of three-quarters of the states, so even after the British Isles were admitted, they would only add one vote (or four votes) to the “yes” column, against the fifty votes that already existed.
Parliament, on the other hand, can essentially remodel British constitutional law as they wish, because there is no difficult amendment process in the UK. I suspect Britain would have to adapt to the American legal system, not the other way around—American law is simply not flexible enough to allow it.
That means the UK would have to accept the US Constitution as they found it. The most obvious implications here are in the Bill of Rights: Brits would gain a Second Amendment right to bear arms that would severely limit the UK’s gun control, a First Amendment right to free expression that would blunt their hate speech laws and curtail their overbroad libel laws, a First Amendment right to freedom of religion that would disestablish the Church of England, and a Fifth Amendment right to just compensation that might limit the left wing’s ability to nationalize (state-ize?) private businesses.
But perhaps the most shocking implication would be found in Article Four:
The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government…
In other words, the royal family would have to go. They could still live there, of course, and they could still own palaces and fortresses and crowns and whatnot, but they would have to be private citizens with no special power in the government. Hence why I’m calling this state “British Isles”, not “United Kingdom”: It would no longer be a kingdom.
(To Americans, of course, this would represent the final, complete triumph of the Founding Fathers’ revolution over George III’s monarchy. But the Brits would not see it in terms nearly as romantic as that.)
Interestingly, the United States’s flexible federalist system would probably mean that three things would not have to go:
- The parliamentary system. The Constitution is not actually that picky about how state governments should be structured: It merely requires that they must be republics, they must not deny the vote based on race, gender, or age above 18, and any legislative districts must contain approximately the same number of people. It does not require that they have fixed terms, separate branches, or any of the other common features of a state government. It does not even technically require a written constitution, although Congress has traditionally required one be written and submitted to them for approval before admitting a state. That means Parliament could come in nearly intact. (Well, the House of Lords would have to change, but I believe they’re already planning to do that.)
- The English common law. Federal and English common law diverged after the Revolution, but there is absolutely no reason the British Isles could not take English common law as their state law. Louisiana’s state law, for instance, is not even a form of common law at all, but a form of French civil law. Of course, in federal matters, US federal law would still apply within the British Isles.
- The National Health Service. It is not illegal for a US state to have a single-payer health care system; in fact, Vermont was planning to set up a single-payer system under Obamacare. They changed course because the taxes were too high, but the British Isles would be quite used to paying the taxes necessary for single-payer health care. Of course, the NHS would not extend outside the British Isles, but it could pay the medical bills of British citizens visiting other states.
Finally, although Kelly Martin asserts that Britons born before admittance would not be eligible to be president, that’s actually an open question. It’s not clear if people born in a country which later became part of the United States thereby become natural-born citizens. The caselaw here is extremely thin, and it’s pretty likely that the Supreme Court would end up deciding it was a political question, meaning it was up to Congress to decide exactly what “natural-born citizen” actually meant.
This would be a huge mess all around.
The most important thing to understand here is that nearly the entire political spectrum in the UK is shifted left relative to the US’s. (From a European perspective, you would probably instead say the US’s is shifted right relative to the norm.) Thus, the UK’s conservative party (the Conservatives) is actually comparable to the US’s liberal party (the Democrats). The UK’s liberal party, Labour, is far enough left that Bernie Sanders would be towards its left side but still well within it; the US’s conservative party, the Republicans, is far enough right that UKIP would be towards its right side but still well within it.
That means the immediate effect would be that both the UK’s left and the US’s right would be disempowered by the insertion of the UK into US politics. US Republicans would probably reach for their guns, while UK Labourites would mobilize workers to create paralyzing strikes.
However, the long-term effects are much harder to predict. Naïvely, we might expect that the Democrats and Conservatives would work together. But political parties are ultimately coalitions of interest groups who happen to find common ground in certain areas, and the Democratic coalition is quite different from the Conservative coalition. It’s all too easy to imagine Labour peeling parts of the Democratic base from its left flank, or Republicans peeling parts of the Conservative base off its right.
Ultimately, I imagine the process of combining the two party systems as rather like two galaxies colliding:
There's a lot more to the answer, so be sure to keep reading!