MINISTERS will use a UK-wide 2030 World Cup bid to help stave off the threat of nationalists splitting up the union.
Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan says that a football tournament across the four home nations and Ireland would help protect the union.
It comes amid fears Brexit and the Election result have bolstered calls for Scottish independence and a unified Ireland.
She said a joint World Cup bid would “bring people together across the country”.
Ministers hope it will have the same galvanising effect on the nation as the 2012 London Olympics.
The English FA is spearheading plans with the other home nations and the Irish FA to bid for the tournament — with its 100-year anniversary in 2030.
PM Boris Johnson pledged to back the effort in his Election manifesto and it will be Ms Morgan’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport that will be involved in coordinating the bid with the respective FAs.
The Culture Secretary told The Sun: “This new decade represents a new chapter for the UK: one full of fresh opportunities for everyone to succeed, come together and celebrate.
“From sporting events to nationwide arts festivals, the next few years will strengthen the union, bringing people together from across the country and around the world for unmissable moments.
“These events will enrich lives, unite communities and help unleash Britain’s potential and it would be incredible to then cap the next decade off with the UK and Ireland as hosts of the 2030 World Cup.”
The PM faces a double fight to keep the union together after the election earlier this month.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has already formally requested a second independence referendum after Scottish nationalists won 48 of the 59 seats north of the border at the election.
And in Northern Ireland more Irish nationalists were elected to Westminster than pro-unionist politicians for the first time since the partition of Ireland in 1921.