RECENTLY, I revisited a nightmare from history: the traumatic break up of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. My motive was a spot of background research for a work of fiction. Yet, as is so often the case, facts from history echo beyond their own time. As do history’s lessons.

Readers of a certain age will remember those dreadful days in the Balkans with a shiver. Concentration and rape camps, senseless massacres committed in the name of sundry ethnic groups, the enforced displacement of whole communities fleeing for their lives. In short, hatred and division whipped up by politicians weaponising national identity to seize power.

Is it far-fetched to see connections to our own troubles in Brexit Britain? Of course, no one is suggesting we will have a bloody civil war as occurred in Yugoslavia. I do believe, however, we could be witnessing the fracturing of a political structure – or nation, arrangement, shared identity, call it what you will – that has endured for hundreds of years. Namely, the United Kingdom.

One aspect of Brexit that has astonished me is the apparent indifference to the union of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Island shown by the current government. Since they and their Lib Dem coalition partners inflicted austerity on these islands, the attitude towards our partner nations within the UK has been provocative and reckless.

Take Scotland. This is a country that overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU. It has a far longer history of sovereignty as a separate nation than as a part of the UK. Yet both Theresa May and Boris Johnson’s governments have consistently ignored Scottish voices in their frantic desire to get a Brexit that stops the Tory party from splitting. Basically, they have put their political careers before the Union.

The result has been dramatic and inevitable. In 2014, the Independence referendum in Scotland found 55% of Scots wanted to stay as part of the UK. A major reason for their decision was economic – and also because being “better together” guaranteed Scotland’s place in the EU.

However, since the Brexit referendum, opinion polls have shown a remorseless shift in attitudes among Scots. A recent Panelbase survey for the The Sunday Times of Scotland revealed that 50% of Scots now wish to abandon the UK and achieve full national independence.

I have not the slightest doubt that if Boris Johnson achieves his aim of a Britain dedicated to the interests of the very rich bobbing offshore from Europe like a deregulated, low tax banana republic, the demand for Scottish independence will become overwhelming.

Is this what people voted for when they voted Leave? Almost certainly not. Yet, as Yugoslavia or many another broken nation has proved, the unthinkable can become thinkable all too quickly. And if unravelling 40 years of trade arrangements with the EU is proving an almost impossible task, imagine splitting off from Scotland with our three hundred years of shared history.

Then comes the issue of Northern Ireland. Boris Johnson’s decision to sell out the Unionist community of that deeply scarred province is an object lesson in political hypocrisy and cynicism. Just a few months before seeking to set up a trade border in the Irish Sea, Johnson condemned just such a notion.

Yet here we are, the very thing he supposedly abhorred lies at the centre of his so-called “great deal”. Let no one have any illusions about the PM’s motives: he sees taking this step towards a united Ireland as a way of hanging onto power and its perks. Once again, cynicism and recklessness characterise the government’s approach to the Union.

As this column has pointed out repeatedly, no one with a shred of decency should risk enflaming sectarian passions in Ulster. The Good Friday Agreement, with its emphasis on power sharing in Stormont, is already wobbling.

Nations do break up. Is that desirable for the UK? Personally, I would mourn the death of our Union, not least because it would be yet another example of people failing to co-operate and compromise for mutual advantage. Far more sensitivity is needed from our self-serving, bungling government if we are to remain “better together” after the Brexit debacle expires.