Texit after Brexit? Not so fast

There’s been a popular theme running around social media over the past couple of days discussing the future of Texas as compared to what just happened in the UK. You’ll find it on Twitter under the simple hashtag of #Texit.

In case the meaning isn’t obvious at first glance, it boils down to a simple question: if the United Kingdom can “exit” the EU with a simply vote by the people, why can’t Texas do the same to the United States? The Texas Tribune examines the question in detail this week and delivers a fairly simple, if disappointing (to some) answer. They can’t do it under current law.

In the wake of Britain’s historic vote to leave the European Union — nicknamed the “Brexit” — speculation of a Texit on the horizon has cropped up once again. The secessionist movement has a long history in the Lone Star State. Delegates for the Texas Republican Party even recently debated adding secessionist language to the party’s platform. But is it actually legal for Texas to leave the United States?

Simply put, the answer is no. Historical and legal precedents make it clear that Texas could not pull off a Texit — at least not legally.

“The legality of seceding is problematic,” said Eric McDaniel, associate professor of government at the University of Texas at Austin. “The Civil War played a very big role in establishing the power of the federal government and cementing that the federal government has the final say in these issues.”

Texas has a long history (going back to its origins, really) of independence and a sort of “going rogue” attitude. It’s one of the things many of us find appealing about Texans in general. The Lone Star State began it’s journey away from Mexico as an independent nation for several years before finally being absorbed by the United States. In the process they secured some rather unique rights for themselves. One of these is a built-in permission slip to split into as many as five individual states should they wish to do so, without requiring the approval of Congress. Some have interpreted that as a sort of carte blanche to come and go as they please. But legal scholars from the era following the Civil War all the way up through Antonin Scalia have determined that it’s simply not true.

If there were any doubt remaining after that, late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia set it to rest more than a century later with his response to a letter from a screenwriter in 2006 asking if there is a legal basis for secession.

“The answer is clear,” Scalia wrote. “If there was any constitutional issue resolved by the Civil War, it is that there is no right to secede. (Hence, in the Pledge of Allegiance, ‘one Nation, indivisible.’)”

So could Texas secede from the union at this point? Sure. But it looks like they’d have to win a war to do it. Otherwise they’d probably suffer the same fate as the Conch Republic.

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