Friday, 6 March 2020

Nations and Nationality

There was an interesting question on Quora recently, where a member asked "As a Welsh [person], why, when I'm from the UK am I automatically classed as English in foreign countries?".

A number of people replied to this post, including Scots, Irish and Welsh people. The general view was that this was ignorance on the part of the people who were inaccurately classifying those who felt they were misclassified.

My take was not an answer that would soothe the Scots, the Northern Irish, or the Welsh nationalists. I took a simple stance of global and legal national identity. None of Scotland, Northern Ireland, or Wales have the legal status of a nation. Go to List of Countries of the world in alphabetical order (A to Z).

Nations are a formal, accepted, global structure. We use them to pigeonhole people into nice, neat categories, especially for passports. The only choice for the Welsh, the Scots and the Northern Irish is to select "British" as their nationality, and the UK as their nation. Internationally, British is conflated with English: probably because this is the UK's common language.

This conflation is an interesting thing, and is not quite unique, globally. The Dutch are from The Netherlands, which is often conflated with Holland. However, Holland is only one state of The Netherlands. I am sure there are others out there (but that I, in my ignorance, don't know of them!).

Clans, tribe, Iwi, or ethnic affiliation are ‘informal’, and are not seen as being as ‘legitimate’ as nations (man, think Palestine!). I feel that unless Wales succeeds from the UK and becomes independent and is recognised as a nation state, there will be no other choice but to be viewed as "English" overseas.

Perhaps Britons can keep gently correcting people to say they are "British", if they do not affiliate with the English amongst them...?


Sam

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