Stop referring to Englandandwales – it doesn’t exist

Snowdon – the highest mountain in England and Wales? The image is released free of copyrights under Creative Commons CC0.

Gareth Ceidiog Hughes

I do not live in Englandandwales.

I live in Wales; not Englandandwales, and I am sick to the back teeth of seeing and hearing it referred to as such.

Wales is a nation overlooked. Far too often it is not treated as a nation in its own right.

When people refer to Englandandwales what they are communicating is that they believe Wales is an afterthought; that they don’t accord its people the same respect as those of other nations.

Yr Wyddfa, the highest mountain in Wales, is often referred to as the highest mountain in England and Wales. Yet I’ve never heard Mont Blanc referred to has the highest mountain in England and France. Do people refer to Mount Everest as the highest mountain in England and Nepal? No, I don’t think so.

Now this example may seem trivial to many, but it is part of a pattern of behaviour that has created societal and legal structures that keep the people of Wales powerless and poor.

The way people are viewed impacts the way they are treated by those in power, and vice versa. It becomes self-reinforcing.

Rather depressingly, the fact that Wales is mentioned as an afterthought is actually a step forward.

The Laws in Wales Acts 1535 and 1542 essentially abolished the country as a legal entity. It incorporated Wales into England to create a single state and legal jurisdiction.

The law states that the “Country or Dominion of Wales shall be, stand and continue for ever from henceforth incorporated, united and annexed to and with this his Realm of England.”

Indeed, anyone looking up Wales in 1888 edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica would have found the monumentally paltry, dismissive and arrogant entry “See England.”

In many ways, despite the progress that has been made, despite the fact that we have our own Senedd and so on, “for Wales see England” remains the case.

Ironically this was done during the reign of King Henry VIII of England who hailed from the partly Welsh Tudor dynasty.

However, this was actually an improvement because following the Edwardian conquest of Wales in 1282 the nation was pretty much treated as a fiefdom under a sort of medieval apartheid. Under the so-called Acts of Union the Welsh were given a greater amount of legal protection and a measure of equality. In fact, many Welsh people at the time welcomed the development.

That however does not exactly make the situation an optimal one. It’s a sad state of affairs indeed when the destruction of your country is seen as an improvement. Yes, it gave Welsh people a measure of equality, but it had an Orwellian flavour. England was more equal than us, and still is.

The fact that many people have been happy to hold their hands out for crumbs does not negate the arguments for demanding a loaf.

Unequal

Englandanwales is more than just a frame of mind however – the effect of the Acts of Union is still felt in our ability to run our own affairs for our own greater good.

Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own legal jurisdictions. Wales does not, and that means it has less control over its affairs. The legal jurisdiction of England and Wales is essentially that of England with an adjunct.

This means we do not have Welsh justice in Wales; we only have English justice. This is problematic because many aspects of the English criminal justice system are dysfunctional, and in Wales we have to endure it.

We have our own Senedd in Cardiff Bay which is developing our very own body of law. Yet we do not have our own legal system. This is problematic, it causes confusion and can lead to anomalies.

It means we are not free to treat drugs as the public health crisis it is, as they have done in countries such as Portugal. So as long as England sticks with a failed approach on this issue, Wales has to lump it, and make no mistake; that means more crime, and more drug deaths.

Wales is not in control of the price of its own water either. Scotland and Northern Ireland are able to regulate the price of their own water.

However, the price for water in Wales is set by Ofwat, which is the economic regulator of the water sector in England and Wales. This essentially means the price of Welsh water is set by England. It’s over 50 years since the village of Capel Celyn in the Tryweryn valley was drowned in an act of legalised colonial theft, and Wales still isn’t in control of its own water.

The current legal order also means that Wales is unable to charge a Tryweryn Tax on it in order to pump money into our priorities, such as the NHS. Meanwhile private firms make a fortune from it.

It is yet another illustration of the unequal nature of the United Kingdom. Wales is treated as more unequal than others, with England being the most equal of all of course.

Wales is the institutionally weakest part of the United Kingdom, and it also happens to be the poorest. Is this a coincidence? I very much doubt it.

Solutions

Being referred to as Englandandwales is also problematic with regards to understanding Wales.

Recently I’ve been looking up crime statistics for something that I’m writing. Unfortunately finding crime stats, or stats in general, for Wales is not a straight forward endeavour.

The ONS for example does not have crime statistics for Wales. It only has crime statistics for England and Wales. This is less than helpful when trying to understand what is happening in Wales. It is also deeply disrespectful.

It is said that there a lies, damn lies, and statistics. Statistics about Wales are essentially manipulated to act as if Wales almost doesn’t exist.

Statistics are a window through which to see the world. Unfortunately, in Wales our window is largely obscured. To find solutions to issues affecting Wales we first need to understand what is going on. It is much more difficult to do that without the relevant stats.

The dearth of Wales-only statistics also reinforces the perception that it is less than a nation. Because it is perceived as less than a nation it is treated as such. Because it is treated as such, it is perceived as such. These things become self-reinforcing.

Perceptions matter. Each country is an idea. For Wales to be treated as a nation we must begin by regarding it as such, and demand that others do the same.

That is the first step towards making it a reality.

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Dewi PrysorRhosdduEos PengwernHuw DaviesHuw Davies Recent comment authors
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David Williams
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David Williams

Firstly i would like to say i am a proud welshman a celt living in the welsh marches . England and wales are only a small country as is the UK . Water is expensive now as any farmer would tell you and a rise in price is not required . We are small on the global stage now and with brexit about to get smaller and poorer . Will the union break up if we leave the EU Wales has recieved a lot of funding from Europe you only have to travel over the border to Herefordshire and take… Read more »

Ernie The Smallholder
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Ernie The Smallholder

Cymru Wales is a country in its own right, we should have the right to decide on membership of the EU on the terms that will benefit Cymru (Not England).
The problem with Herefordshire is that you do not have an assembly, there is nothing really to defend Hereford from the harsh UK regime.
I would advise that people in Hereford and surrounds press for a Mercia nation.
Alongside Cornwall (Kernow), Wessex, Anglia, Umberland etc this can be a basis for a federal system of equals instead of empire rule of the UK from London.

Maldwyn Thomas
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Maldwyn Thomas

To be ruled over by the E U ,no thanks . Lots of English people believe that Wales belongs to England .it’s their playground and their right to rule .,even the BBC never recognized Wales as a country !. We in Wales know our history , we know we are a proud nation with a Language almost 4000 years old which still survives ,we live in harmony with our big neighbour England , it’s up to the Welsh Assembly to promote the well-being of the nation and it’s people. We are all equals in the four countries that make up… Read more »

Ann Owen
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Ann Owen

Cytuno’n llwyr efo’r erthygl yma / Completely agree with this article. Has anyone else noticed that apparently our weather comes via England too even if a westerly gale is blowing off the Irish Sea!! Perceptions reinforced even in the silliest of ways!

Gareth Westacott
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Gareth Westacott

Yes, I’ve noticed this. They’ll say something like, “There’ll be rain moving in from the west across England and Wales,” as if the rain reaches England first AND THEN Wales – when, to get it in the right order, it should be “….. moving in from the west across Wales and England.”

Ann Owen
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Ann Owen

Exactly!

Robin
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Robin

Perhaps people who refer to England and Wales are reincarnations of Henry VIII— if so, they’re 500 years out of date.. I moved from England to Wales not England and Wales!

G. Evans
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G. Evans

Pratt is a word that comes to mind

Simon Gruffydd
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Simon Gruffydd

Good article. England and Wales is a legal expression, not a cultural or geographical one. If we had bold men of vision in the Assembly would have had Welsh law, (like Scottish and Northern Irish law) distinct from English law, many years ago – and ‘England and Wales’ would be no more. But our Assembly seems to be dominated by quislings. Until that changes, ‘England and Wales’ will remain.

Siân
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Siân

“bold men” how outdated is that? We now have women too in case you hadn’t noticed!

Huw Davies
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Huw Davies

Be bold, be inclusive and list all the other variants that are now so fashionable in Plaido-speak !

Rod Ponsford
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Rod Ponsford

Ooooooh how much I agree with you. Hailing originally from Swansea, my personal gripe is the Bristol Channel. Why is it so named? It is in fact the Severn Estuary. Is the Thames Estuary the London Channel? It is not. The Mersey Estuary the Liverpool Channe?. No! The Tyne Estuary the Newcastle Channel? Again no. I could go on but I hope you take my point.

Gareth Roberts
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Gareth Roberts

Yn union: Môr Hafren.

jr humphrys
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jr humphrys

btw Oil and gas in the “Liverpool” channel?
If so, an independent Cymru should demand back-dated reparation for profits made from any oil and gas extracted.

Mawkernewek
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removed by author (duplicate)

Mawkernewek
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Glen
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Glen

What boils my piss is people in the so called Welsh media who refer to ‘the Welsh mountains’, ‘ the Welsh Valleys’ ‘the Welsh capital’ etc. like it’s a foreign country, and it always ‘the Welsh border’ regardless of which side of Offa’s Dyke they mean. While Scotland apparently is ‘north of the border’ even for us in Wales.

We are strangers in our own land.

Rhosddu
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Rhosddu

The Welsh Assembly. EnglandandWales. And for that matter, DevonandCornwall.

The language of colonialism as regards placenames in the UK should be considered as being as outdated as ‘mongol’, ‘handicapped’, ‘spastic’, ‘spinster’, ‘unmarried mother’, ‘half-cast’. We in Wales should be as pernickity about the use of ‘EnglandandWales’ and the other examples from contributors as the PC industry is about the outdated (and largely offensive) terms I’ve just cited.

Somebody tell The Guardian. In theory, they should love it. In practice, they’ll carry on as before.

Gareth Roberts
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Gareth Roberts

What about when Wales is “the other side of the M4/Severn Bridge”!?

Huw Davies
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Huw Davies

I think it is a minor miracle that Wales still exists as a de facto national idea. A thousand years of being a Norman/English colony, yet we still have our language (even if we don’t all speak it) and an ongoing discussion about becoming an independent country. It would have been so easy for Wales to have become just another English region, like Cornwall or Cumbria, that was once an independent kingdom but is now England with a quaint/funny accent. Paradoxically, I think Brexit has put a dent in the argument ‘Wales is too small to go it alone. Wales… Read more »

jr humphrys
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jr humphrys

Article in Euronews about the Manx government trying to retrieve their language and also Kernow making strides. I write this, as brexit types ignore the pro-culture stance of the EU.

Huw Davies
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Huw Davies

Completely off the wall but I’m pretty sure the advert for Kelly’s ice cream, in Cornish, is semi understandable to a Welsh speaker. I think I heard words that sounded like ‘bookess layol’ somewhere in the mix. In Welsh a local herd of cattle could be ‘buches leol’ so I’m guessing that Kelly’s ice cream uses milk from local cattle. To me, Cornish sounds like Welsh being spoken by an English immigrant who is a ‘dysgwr’. I’ve also mentioned before about seeing a Cumbrian sheep farmer on TV counting sheep in the old Cumbrian dialect and recognising it as very… Read more »

Rhosddu
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Rhosddu

Compare the Cumberland sheep-counting word “bumfit” (don’t laugh) with its Welsh equivalent, “pymtheg”. Conclusive proof that they’re using an anglicised form of Cumbrian when it’s time to get the sheep back in the pen.

As for Cornish, it has a 75% vocabulary-share with Welsh, same words, just the odd consonant or vowel that’s different, so small wonder that a fluent Welsh speaker could pick out words he recognised. Top tip: words ending in ‘d’ or ‘t’ in Welsh usually end with ‘s’ in Cornish, e.g. byd/bys, nant/nans.

Eos Pengwern
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I think you’re being ironic with your comments about Brexit (it’s hard to tell nowadays) , but I happen to think that you’ve hit the nail on the head: every argument Brexit is also an argument for Welsh independence, and vice versa. I’d go further: Brexit is a prerequisite for Welsh independence, since if a country the size of the UK can’t leave a union that it’s been part of for just 40 years, how will a country the size of Wales manage to leave a union that it’s been part of for over 700? Those who think that the… Read more »

Rhosddu
Guest
Rhosddu

You’re partly right, Eos, but ONLY partly. Yes, the EU will never sanction the break-up of Spain, nor of the UK while it remains a member. And yes, Wales is indeed more likely to gain its independence from Westminster outside the EU after Brexit, but it can better capitalise on that independence by joining the EU as a sovereign state, as the Republic of Ireland did.

But if the EU refuses entry to an independent Scotland and Wales, then I’ll begin to seriously question the EU’s geo-political agenda.

Dewi Prysor
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Dewi Prysor

Thanks for this piece. ‘England and Wales’ is political camouflage. Welsh statistics are buried in EnglandandWales, limiting our cability to plan and develop social and economic strategies, while also limiting the sense of political nationhood. And of course, EnglandandWales means England, or England and her minion, like ‘Serbia and Montenegro’ not so long ago. I agree re the Acts of Union, but there is a delicious irony there within; those acts of annexation, while setting up the legal circuits’ jurisdictions, did in fact define the modern borders of Wales (apart from Monmouth, which would follow) and set that border in… Read more »