Britain's surprise vote to exit the European Union has sent shockwaves around the globe, not least of all in the Lone Star State, as Texas nationalists seized on Thursday’s Brexit decision to renew calls for a referendum for Texas independence.
“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,” Daniel Miller, president of the Texas Nationalist Movement, said in a statement early Friday.
The Texas Nationalist Movement claims a quarter million supporters – out of the state’s 27 million people – and the organization previously dismissed as a fringe group got closer than ever before to influencing the Texas Republican platform in May, falling just two votes shy in committee of bringing a secession resolution to the convention floor of nearly 4,000 delegates, as the Associated Press reported.
"Texit is in the air," Mr. Miller told Reuters, and the term was trending on Twitter Friday, propelled both by jokes and campaigning by genuine Lone Star nationalists. The Texas Nationalist Movement has more likes on Facebook than the pages for Texas’s Republican Party and Texas’s Democratic Party combined.
Texas nationalist supporters echo many of the same themes as the Leave campaign, including opposition to big-government regulation and a desire for a more secure border – parallels that Mr. Miller sought to accentuate.
“You could take ‘Britain’ out and replace it with ‘Texas’. You could take ‘EU’ out and replace it with ‘US’. You could take ‘Brussels’ out and replace it with ‘Washington DC’. You could give you guys a nice Texas drawl and no one would know any different. So much of it is exactly the same,” Miller told The Guardian.
Yet while the European Union is an association of independent countries with pre-existing protocols for a member to exit, the US Constitution, say most legal scholars, bars states from leaving, as Justice Scalia and the White House have pointed out when calls for Texas’s independence gained public attention before.
“More than 600,000 Americans died in a long and bloody civil war that vindicated the principle that the Constitution establishes a permanent union between the States,” the White House wrote in response to a 2012 petition asking for Texas to be granted the right to peacefully withdraw from the United States, saying that Americans cannot allow healthy political debate to tear the country apart.
Texas nationalists cite the state’s unique history as a basis for secessionist claims. After declaring independence from Mexico in 1836, Texas was an independent country for nine years, until being annexed by the United States with a resolution that contains language that has often led to confusion about the state’s ability to secede, as the Texas Tribune reported. The resolution allows for the state to divide itself into “New States of convenient size not exceeding four in number, in addition to said State of Texas,” meaning it can split itself into five new states, but not leave the Union.
Texas’s secession preceding the Civil War was declared “absolutely null” by the Supreme Court in the 1869 Texas v. White case. “The State did not cease to be a State, nor her citizens to be citizens of the Union,” the judges ruled.
The nation’s most populous state, California, also has murmurings of a secessionist movement that’s undeterred by the legal arguments and hopes to include a referendum on making California an independent country in the 2020 November presidential election.