Modern Britain has been one of the most stable countries in the world. For the past 300 years, the union between England and Scotland – founded in turn upon the much older union between England and Wales – has held fast. Recently, though, the future of the United Kingdom has become a topic of increasingly convulsive debate. Two referendums have served as lightning rods for existential questions about the country’s identity. The 2014 referendum on Scottish independence put the very survival of the United Kingdom at stake; the 2016 Brexit referendum has left the question of how its constituent nations should relate to one another very much up for grabs. These are unsettling times – but also exciting ones.

These Islands is a forum for debate founded in the conviction that no crisis should be allowed to go to waste. It stands unabashedly for the view that more unites the three nations of Great Britain than divides them, and that good relations between the various communities of Northern Ireland, Great Britain, and Ireland are all the more important to work for in the wake of Brexit. Accepting that there is a pressing need for recalibration, it does so with a sense of optimism and relish. Enthusiastic about the Union, it is enthusiastic as well about local identities and loyalties. It recognises that to explore a British sense of identity is also to explore the other identities that people in these islands have, and that the plural nature of the United Kingdom, far from constituting a weakness, is its greatest strength.

As a forum, These Islands is for people of all political traditions. Both right and left in the United Kingdom, after all, have derived their principles from its various corners. They bear the imprint of Edmund Burke and Benjamin Disraeli; of Robert Owen and Keir Hardie. Simultaneously, we will work to ensure that the provenance, reliability and limitations of data relevant to the future of the United Kingdom is clearly laid out. Informed and constructive debate on such a vital topic is impossible without a robust understanding of the relevant facts.

We are about much more than politics, though. The wildlife of these islands and their seas respect no borders; the shared history of Great Britain and Ireland is far older than the United Kingdom; the arts and creative industries which have made our country such a cultural powerhouse are our common heritage. All these, and other topics too, will be our themes.

We provide a forum for everyone interested in what makes Britain, Britain – and how a future that works to the benefit of everyone in these islands can best be forged.