No one can be a British citizen

From the citizenship test:

1. Which countries make up \’Great Britain\’?

England, Scotland and Northern Ireland
England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
Wales and England
England, Scotland and Wales

Wales is not a country, it is a Principality. Thus there is no correct answer possible. NI means UK, GB includes Scotland, but the answers which include England and Scotland but not NI include Wales as a country.

6. Under the feudal system, what were people who worked the land called?


Correct answer: serfs and yeomen. There were both extant and both worked the land. The difference was a difference of status within those who did.


56 thoughts on “No one can be a British citizen”

  1. You’re wrong on Wales – see the latest ISO list (p27). It’s unequivocally a country, both according to international and UK authorities, after the 1998 and 2006 Government of Wales Acts made Wales’s legal country status clear.

    The other one’s technically a fair cop, although it’s pretty obvious in context it’s referring to the chaps who mostly worked their feudal masters’ land, rather than the chaps who were given their own land in exchange for military service.

  2. Am certain that Wales is just a collective noun for a specific group of English counties.

    Check that legislation again!

  3. And now I’ve checked the 2006 Act. There’s no definition of Wales in it. It’s tricky to find one anywhere – that’s the point 🙂

  4. Stuart: you were arguably right before 1967. You are now unequivocally wrong. There has been a massive shift in Wales’s constitutional position over the last 45 years, culminating (well, so far) in the Welsh Assembly’s right to make primary law last year.

    The most important individual change was the removal of Wales from the definition of England as part of the 1967 Welsh Language Act (previously, as you note, Wales was regarded in UK law as a subset of English counties), but the WLA 1993 and the two Government of Wales Acts also led to major shifts in perception.

    Because the UK’s constitution is uncodified and evolves as laws are passed, there is no single Welsh Declaration Of Countryhood, but the fact that Wales has its own status as a legal entity distinct from England capable of making its own laws, is called a country by the Welsh government, is called a country by the UK government, and is called a country by the ISO, suggests that it’d be, ahem, *challenging* for someone to plausibly make the constitutional claim that Wales isn’t a country.

  5. Boudicca did not fight against the Roman conquest – she led a rebellion afterwards. It was Caractacus (arguments about the proper British spelling, so I’ll use the Roman version) who fought against the conquest.

  6. I thought Great Britain was a geographical expression comprising mainland Britain, Ireland, the Isle of Wight, etc.

  7. For domicile purposes, “England and Wales” is a country. Neither of the two entities alone constitutes a country.

    It’s similar to the “City of Brighton and Hove”. Brighton alone is not a city, but a constituent part of the City of B&H. Just as England is part of the country of “England and Wales”.

    In all but the most legalistic sense, England and Wales are two countries. A Principality can be a country – cf Monaco, Liechtenstein.

  8. BiF: you’re thinking of British Isles. GB has two meanings, either 1) the island that makes up most of England, Wales and Scotland, or 2) all of England, Wales and Scotland, also including the Isle of Wight, Scottish islands and Ynys Mon, but not Ireland, the Channel Islands or Isle of Man.

  9. john b: I was talking about domicile, which was not affected by the 1967 Act – “England and Wales” is still the recognised domicile (try googling an image of a Grant of Probate if you want to check).

    I’ve just read the 1967 Act which doesn’t even mention the word “country” : you could plausibly draw an inference from it that “Wales and Monmouthshire” is a country, but not Wales alone.

  10. Questions I’d like the answer to No8:

    Given that John B is always right about everything, everywhere, whatever the subject, why is he not a billionaire or world leader, rather than just an internet bore?

    No 9: How many times has he been filled in in pubs etc?

  11. In everyday British usage of English, of course Wales is a country – so are Scotland and England. I suppose N Ireland has become one too – all Ireland was certainly called a country in its day.

    Example – the old expression “home countries” for the sides in the football competition played by Scotland, England, NI and Wales.

  12. Faithless

    Is john b anymore prone to being ‘right’ than the rest of think we are ? On the one subject I could claim to know anything about at all, railways, he’s usually right ie. he says things I mostly agree with, isn’t that the definition we all use ?

  13. At the establishment of England in a non-fleeting way (which effectively meant at the Conquest), there were slaves there, having been held by Anglo-Saxons and Danes (and Romano-Britons before them). I have never been able to find out when English slavery ended. Does anyone here know?

    Gaels too held slaves. For Ireland I would guess that the replacement of the Brehon laws might be a decent approximation to the end of slavery: but for the Scottish Highlands, when? As for the Scottish Lowlands, when did it end there? I don’t know that either.

  14. I have never been able to find out when English slavery ended. Does anyone here know?

    As legally permitted – 1772, Somersett’s Case.

    As to common? Around the Black Plague, I would guess. Workers became too valuable.

  15. I think 1772 was really the date of acknowledging that slavery had long been extinct, rather than a date of abolition; my guess would be the same as yours – it may have ended sharply, or perhaps dwindled away, after the Black Death. But can anyone here do better than guessing?

  16. john77: I don’t think it wrong to say that Boudicca fought the Roman Conquest. The Conquest was a gradual process over decades, not just the Claudian invasion.

    I note “The Magna Carta”, which is not the conventional usage, in academic circles at least.

    The questions do seem rather hard, but they don’t come from an actual citizenship test, and they’re not even official examples. The question about the imposition of English Law in Wales is particularly obscure.

  17. I think 1772 was really the date of acknowledging that slavery had long been extinct, rather than a date of abolition;

    No, it was quite specific – it was a slave legally purchased in the colonies being legally free once brought to England because slavery was deemed damned unEnglish. I agree that the usage of slavery in England had long withered by this point – hence probably why there was no legal case before that.

    The “banning” of the slave trade in England was in 1102 – by a church council in London. Which probably had somewhat more force then than such would now.

  18. What does this test tell anyone? They’ll get the official papers and swot up the answers and the people who pass the test will be those that can memorize the answers.

    It’s not like they’re going to read up on their Churchill, Pepys and AJP Taylor before taking the test, is it?

  19. Wasn’t the press gang and Impressment (if that’s the right term) a form of slavery? It seems to tick all the boxes just without the formal name.

    Even if the pressed were given the ‘option’ of signing on or not, and if they didn’t they still had to do all the necessary service.

  20. Sorry, SE, I don’t think that “a slave legally purchased in the colonies being legally free once brought to England” constitutes abolition. It constitutes “you’re not bringing that foul habit back into this jurisdiction by the back door”. Jolly good; but to style it ‘abolition” would be to imply that slavery in England had carried on until 1772, which is plain wrong. (Unless you are a Tox-Dadger reader , of course, for whom social condition XYZ can be called slavery, at whim.)

  21. ooh, sorry, I hadn’t read Doug’s comment. Still, I saw the like coming, eh?

    Now, SE, thanks for the 1102 link. So that’s the abolition of the trade attempted. (I note that many of the other decrees were not effective: I wonder whether this one was.) How about the owning of the poor souls, and their sprogs? When was that done away with? Anyone?

  22. P: yup, agree E&W is still a domicile and a legal jurisdiction. Neither of those = country, though. Will be interesting to see what happens to all of that if, as is likely, criminal justice gets devolved to the Welsh Government over the next couple of decades.

    F(8): fairly obviously, there’s not much correlation between “being factually correct most of the time” and “becoming a billionaire or a world leader”. Both of the latter require the ability to ignore facts and flatter the egos of fuckwits (who seldom like being told they’re wrong). F(9): never, sorry to disappoint.

    SE: I’m surprised to see you refer to the – I agree incorrect and very annoying – usage of ‘British subject’ to refer to British citizens as “leftist”. IMX it’s mostly done by ignorant and/or petulant Merkans.

  23. I should have been amused to watch a constitutional lawyer telling a pre-1967 Welsh Rugby team that Wales was not a country.
    Tim is confusing a country with a kingdom.

  24. “Wasn’t the press gang and Impressment (if that’s the right term) a form of slavery?”

    Well no, not really. It was more like conscription as applied through WWI and WWII but a little less bureaucratic. (if you and your mates could beat them off, well it did not apply) Your Impressment would end if you were injured beyond being able to fight and also at the end of hostilities. Plus you were given a wage plus your offspring were not enslaved.

    Not that that would be much consolation as you were nursing a lump on the head in the brig waiting to take to sea.

  25. I thought that in 1772, while slavery was extinct in England , there had never been a law abolishing it, and this was referenced in the judges summary.

    Didn’t slavery fall out of use fairly quickly after the Norman conquest in England? Although still in use in Wales and Ireland for some time after that.

  26. Steve T: that’s pretty much my impression. I was just hoping that someone might come along who knew more.

    (On Ireland: if you raise the subject of slavery there, you can be pretty confident that someone will blame it on the Norse. I suppose that’s a special case of no Irishman ever being responsible for anything bad.)

  27. Would we call Bavaria a country?

    It was independent much later than Wales (largely independent under a Prince-Elector in the later Holy Roman Empire, then fully independent until 1871-ish, then I think again briefly after WWI).

    It has, I think, more legal independence than Wales, and (more importantly) its legal position is constitutionally protected whereas any authority given to the Welsh Assembly is merely temporarily delegated at the whim of the UK Parliament.

  28. JohnB: So yes, it’s all behaviour.
    Yes, the 1967 Welsh Language Act was repealed 21/12/93.

    So we go to the 1993 WLA. Not only is there no definition of ‘Wales’ but plenty of references to ‘The Secretary of State’ etc. All beautifully undefined.

    There’s nothing in either GoW act.
    Nothing anywhere, in fact.

    So it’s a typically British muddle, based on common law and precedent, but IMHO (and personal opinion) Wales isn’t a country. If it were, it would be represented at the Olympics and the Eurovision Song Contest… And the US Governement would accept English as a nationality – have you ever tried that?

  29. .. and from the 1967 WLA this is all that it says

    “and that Wales should be distinguished from
    England in the interpretation of future Acts of Parliament”.

    Is that all? All there is in law to separate Wales from England. It’s all pretty circumstantial.

    Does anybody know if this has been tested in Court, and if so, why?

  30. One would imagine the prince (note miniscule) of the country of Wales would be Brenda Herself. As indeed she is the prince ruling England & Scotland.
    Thus Tim is hoist by his own pendantry

  31. Richard: Bavaria certainly calls itself a country – “Freistaat Bayern”. But I don’t think that means we (in Britain) have to call it a country; from our perspective it’s part of Germany.

  32. “she is the prince ruling England & Scotland”: ruling? She reigns, she doesn’t rule.

  33. Pechorin (#36), I know. That’s why I asked if we would call it one (after all, what does it matter what Johnny Foreigner calls it?).

    If we don’t call Bavaria and Texas countries, I don’t see why we should call Wales one.

    But then the British constitution was never logical.

  34. @dearieme 37

    OK, it’s Wiki, but:

    “A monarch is the person at the head of a monarchy. This is a form of government in which a state or polity is ruled or controlled by an individual who typically inherits the throne by birth and rules for life or until abdication. Monarchs may be autocrats (absolute monarchy) or ceremonial heads of state who exercise little or no power or only reserve power, with actual authority vested in a parliament or other body (constitutional monarchy).”
    And all the other definitions I could find said much the same.

    Anyway, discretion.
    Not sure one should use the word reign within earshot of the English just at the moment. Bit of a sore subject.

  35. That’s self-contradictory, bloke. How can monarchs be said to rule who “exercise little or no power or only reserve power”?

    It must have been written by a Yank. Pah!

  36. If we’re to rely on wikipedia: “Wales is a country…”

    And if we’re to be pedantic, “minuscule” is conventional.

  37. “How can monarchs be said to rule who “exercise little or no power or only reserve power”?”
    Seems to describe most of our illustrious leaders nowadays though, doesn’t it? Much pomp & little circumstance.

  38. MarbellaBoy,

    Although conscription during the World Wars didn’t (as far as I know) include stopping foreign vessels in international waters and taking some of their sailors.

  39. “Much pomp & little circumstance”: are you making the point that Mr Cameron reigns while Bruxelles rules, bloke?

  40. Forget slavery, forget imperialism, forget warm beer, the real moral crime of the British is your inability to agree on any sort of wording to apply to the various bits of the UK.

    And this spreads. I remember once trying to maneuver a paper about the electricity markets in the neck of the woods through a bunch of US-based copyeditors. Never again. The Balkans were a piece of cake by comparison.

  41. Tracy W: it’s protection against invasion. It’s a little known fact that it wasn’t the RN or RAF that saved Britain from Hitler, it was that the Reich Appointments Ministry couldn’t figure out where to appoint gauleiters and underfuhrers, et al. By the time they’d given up, they’d used up so many memo forms that they didn’t have enough left to finish the conquest of Russia.

  42. Haha, Matthew wins the thread.

    Pechorin/Richard: I reckon if the German and US federal governments referred to Bavaria and Texas (respectively) as countries in their English-language communications with the world-at-large, then it’d be reasonable for us to follow suit.

    Tracy: I once managed a team of consultants who were assortedly German, Indian and Latvian on a project dealing with to a PFI communications network that operated in mainland England, Wales and Scotland only. Explaining to them how “The company has a contract with the UK government, operating under English and Wales law, to provide services in Great Britain” was a completely correct sentence was, erm, challenging.

    (well, except for the Latvian fellow, who was presumably used to labyrinthine complexity when it came to descriptions of nationality and sovereignty…)

  43. One of the few things I remember from my International Law lectures: according to the German Basic Law, the Länder (not just Bavaria, this includes the more modern and artificial creations) actually have the status of “subjects of international law”. In this sense they are rather more “countrylike” than Wales is.

    Re john b’s point about the former USSR – after WWII, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic and Byelorussian SSR were also subjects of international law and held seats at the UN (without leaving the USSR!). I always felt it was a bit odd but the similar idea of Wales remaining in the UK but having a separate seat at the EU comes up occasionally from Welsh nationalists.

    As for the USA, not only do the states retain a large degree of autonomy but certain principles of international law are applied by the federal courts when considering e.g. how river course alterations affect states’ territory.

  44. Mind you the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta is also a subject of international law, but Wales is certainly more countrylike than that – having a territory and population is definitely good start!

  45. On serfs and slavery, there is actually very little difference – serf is an anglicisation (or francisation) of Latin servus, which is the standard term for slave in medieval Europe – especially in Britain where most slaves were not of Slavic descent.

    So to a medieval landowner, a distinction between slave and serf was rather difficult to comprehend – and bonded slaves (fully unfree) as opposed to ‘classical’ serfs (economically unfree) would live in the same family units, intermarry with free neighbours etc – unlike the New World or the Roman latifundi, Britain has never had an economy where chain gangs and plantations worked, so slaves had their own patches to work, from which they supported themselves and their families.

    True slavery died out due to the church encouraging landowners to free slaves, often at the point of death, for the good of their souls, and also due to the general mood in western Europe that enslaving Christians was not allowed (which rather reduced the supply for anyone east of the Rhine and Danube and north of Spain), so the numbers diminished. Also, it may well be that many slaves found themselves effectively free as there was no real conception of slavery…

    So the question is historical nonsense, caused by the fact it was written by someone taught simplified Marxist-inspired history (and proper Marxist historians would be furious at this misrepresentation) of the type that passes for a school education. And never submitted to a historian for evaluation – apparently our citizenship tests are about knowing ‘factoids’ rather than knowing about the truth…

  46. Watchman: struggling with your point.

    Serfs weren’t called “slaves” in mediaeval England, for exactly the reasons you highlight. “Slave” doesn’t crop up until the 14th century, presumably as posh English gets more cosmopolitan and borrows from the countries where Slavic slaves were prevalent.

    In general, ‘slave’ in English clearly refers to your chain gang/latifundi group, hence why “indentured servant” exists as a separate term that isn’t a direct synonym.

  47. Arguably Yoemen were not part of the strict hierarchical feudal system nor were town citizens and so on.

    By the time Yoemanry arrived on a significant scale it is arguable England was no longer feudal (depends how you define feudal though).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *