Secessionist supporters in Texas cry 'Texit!' as they derive hope from Britain's breach from Europe

Efforts earlier this year to make Texit referendum possible were thwarted

David Usborne
New York
Sunday 26 June 2016 18:35
Celebrating Texas Independence Day (from Mexico) in Austin
Celebrating Texas Independence Day (from Mexico) in Austin

After a string of discouraging setbacks, the leaders of the campaign for the secession of Texas from the United States of America are taking heart from Britain’s referendum decision to leave the European Union, even to the point of adopting a new slogan derived from Brexit. It’s "Texit".

For Daniel Miller, the president of the Texas Nationalist Movement, the events in London have come as a much-needed shot in the arm. Other pockets of secessionist ardour in the US, for instance in California and Vermont, are also taking Brexit as a rallying call for their own efforts.

But it is in the Lone Star State where the lure of independence seems the most real – which is not say that real doesn't remain a relative term – if only because of its history. After breaking away from Mexico in 1836, Texas was indeed its own country for a decade before it agreed to become part of the United States.

“The British people have chosen to take control of their political and economic destiny,” Mr Miller said in a statement. “The forces of fear have lost. It is now important for Texas to look to Brexit as an inspiration and an example that Texans can also take control of our destiny. It is time for Texans to rally with us and fight for the right to become a self-governing nation.”

Almost the moment the British results were in, Mr Miller submitted a formal request to the Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, for a referendum in the state on going it alone. “Texit is in the air,” insisted Mr Miller, who claims his movement has a quarter of a million signed-up members.

What would emerge, he and his supporters point out, would be a country with considerable clout. With a population of 27.5 million, Texas already ranks as the 10th biggest economy in the world, generating about £1.17 trillion a year. It’s capital would be Austin, as it is now. It would have its own highly vibrant energy sector, based in and around Houston, and several world-class sports venues, including the home of the Dallas Cowboys, the AT&T Stadium in Arlington.

There is the Texas flag already and choices for its national emblem would include anything from a rodeo pony to a cowboy hat. While there would be good reason to declare it a bilingual country – more than a third of its population is Hispanic – those behind the secession drive (conservative whites, on the whole) would not be likely to favour it.

With #Texit as its new Twitter handle, Mr Miller’s movement is doing what it can to use Brexit to re-energise itself, after two recent defeats.

Last December, the state Republican Party declined to approve a ballot initiative which would have asked voters in the March presidential primaries if they wanted the state to hold a referendum on leaving the Union. Meanwhile, last month the party voted to remove all mention of support for seceding from its formal platform.

The issue has been quietly bubbling beneath the surface in Texas for years, driven by a combination of the state’s own belief in its uniqueness – partly voiced in the widely loved saying, "Don’t mess with Texas" - and also a growing sense, particularly among the hard conservative right, that the federal government has overreached itself in interfering with their lives.

Even Governor Abbott’s predecessor, Rick Perry, has openly flirted with the notion of Texas breaking away from the rest of the country and turning the US into a union of 49 states, though he was forced to downplay the idea in 2012 when he ran for the White House for the first time.

Mr Perry “shares the frustrations many Americans have with our federal government,” but “believes in the greatness of our Union and nothing should be done to change it”, a spokeswoman for the then governor insisted.

The rejection of the EU in Britain has also given a jolt to the secession movement in California. “We intend to mimic that process here in California by putting an independence referendum on the ballot so we can exercise our right to self-determination and vote to leave or remain part of the American Union,” Louis Marinelli, president of the secessionist group, the Yes California Independence Campaign, said after the British votes were counted.

Meanwhile the widow of Thomas Naylor, the late founder of the campaign for secession in Vermont, called the Second Vermont Republic, expressed her encouragement over what Britain had wrought for itself. “Tom would have been happy,” Magdalena Naylor said.

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