History from The Edge


I was tempted to hold fire on this page to await a revelation of the reason for Carl Juncker’s new optimism announced in Australia.  But okay, so the conferences are over and we can see where we are at with Brexit. Or can we? In fact, to illustrate our place in Living History precisely six months before the deadline, we can do no better than consider the following interchange between Andrew Marr and the Prime Minister on Sunday, 30th October:

Marr: If we leave the EU without a deal, doesn’t there have to be a hard border in Northern Ireland?

 May: We have been very clear that we do not want to see a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

 Marr: But if we leave without a deal, that does mean a hard border, doesn’t it?

 May: We are committed to making sure we can provide a guarantee to the people of Northern Ireland.

 Marr: But if we leave without a deal, you can’t guarantee there won’t be a hard border can you?

 May: We are working hard to make sure we leave with a good deal.

 Marr: But if we leave without a deal there will be a border in Ireland, won’t there?

 May :  If we leave without a deal, we as the UK government are doing all we can to ensure there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

 Marr: But you’ll inevitably fail, because according to World Trade Organisation rules, there has to be a border. Shouldn’t you level with people and explain that?

 May: As the UK Government, we remain committed to are doing everything we can to ensure no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

 Theresa May tells no lies here, but neither is she being entirely truthful. To be doing all possible implies the possibility of a solution. But by rejecting the EU’s proposal of making Northern Ireland a ‘special case’ (an enormous concession, by the way) she ensures no solution.

At their conference, nothing was said to change the above. The party faithful (Leave sub-section) were regaled by Boris Johnson at his fringe meeting which was given the press-coverage of a main event. We can suppose everything Boris says or does is considered ‘news’ by a media culture which seems to have drifted miles from any ethical centre it ever had. Theresa May’s speech probably encouraged the ‘Good Hands’ sub-section without actually enraging the ‘Remain sub-section.’ The old beast refused to destroy itself; that tough old mortar mix of greed and self-interest continues to do its job. The problem is that the bricks and stones of preservation and decency have long ago worn away to leave the party under the control (and the rest of us at the mercy) of its worst instincts.

In short, as far as Brexit is concerned, we continue to trundle on towards a choice between the unthinkable and the untenable. The first will destroy us, the second will deliver a situation which satisfies nobody.

Who knows? The population may swing behind the only position worth taking: Brexit isn’t worth the candle; let us make our peace with Europe, sweep away the debris of three wasted years and get on with building a better world of cooperation if not unity. The one  glimmer of hope emerging from the Labour Party Beanfeast is that all options stay on the table, which has to include the one above. One way or another it may happen.

At home in Wales, the enormity of the situation facing us was spelt out by Adam Price, the newly elected leader of Plaid Cymru. Brexit would hit Wales hard, and we have to look to our own future, rejecting the imperialistic cant of ruling elites, which now means both Tories and (particularly in Wales) Labour.  His appeal was to all people, whatever their political instincts, to come together and embrace the true European values of peaceful cooperation. His speech was an indictment of our corrupt party political system, our flawed electoral system and our dysfunctional Union with its roots in Imperialism and fond memories of Disraeli’s ‘Splendid Isolation.’

We need only look at the chaos of English politics to get his drift: Only the Greens, the discredited Lib Dems, a few Social Democrats within Labour and a tiny residue on the left of the Conservative Party  promote the only viable option of withdrawing Article 50 and getting on with the collective task of tackling the huge problems confronting the  world in a true spirit of partnership.

A few closing thoughts are worthy of sharing:  Austerity has not worked; the deficit has been reduced by further borrowing, and banks are now more wary about lending. The writing is clearly on the wall, and none of the promises embodied in the Leave Campaign will be fulfilled.  When this morally bankrupt government says it is honouring your decision back in 2016 it is blaming you for creating a bitter and impossible situation. The only winners will be the speculators and hedge fund operators.  We now await a revelation of the reason for Carl Juncker’s new optimism, but it is already clear that the EU will not grovel at the UK’s feet to negotiate ‘the easiest deal in history’ promised by the Leave campaign. If you voted Leave to reduce immigration, save sending billions to Europe, and repatriate power to Westminster, your vote was bought under false pretences. It is NOT your fault, and you deserve the opportunity to tell them NO, we did not vote to shrink the economy and make us all (except for a handful at the apex) poorer, we were misled and told it would be painless. The truth is the opposite and we want to REMAIN a part of the best political experiment since the Magna Carta.

I trust you are not too disheartened by this month’s input. Thank you for reading this page.

© Ken Davies October 2018

Here is a list of my published historical articles in chronological order of publication:

Ffynnongroyw in 1901: a proletarian village at a linguistic crossroads.
Flintshire Historical Society Journal Vol. 2008

Using the data from the 1901 census, this article shows how the language people speak is related to their origins and occupations.

Life Aboard Two Latter Day Chester River Coasters
The Liverpool Maritime Research Society Bulletin  Vol. 51 March & Vol.52 June 2008 

Also in Maritime Wales/Cymru a’r Mor Number Thirty 2009
A very personal account of life aboard two small ships in the late fifties and early sixties.

 Trade between the Mersey, Dee and Clwyd estuaries in 1891
The Liverpool Maritime Research Society Bulletin Vol. 54 No.3 December 2010

Maritime Activity and the Flintshire Economy in 1891
 Flintshire Historical Society Journal Vol. 39 2012.

Shipping in the Dee and Clwyd  Estuaries on Census Night, 5th  April, 1891
Maritime Wales/Cymru a’r Mor Number Thirty Two 2011

 All three of the above articles use data from the 1891 census to give a snapshot of shipping in the two estuaries and its relationship to the local economy.

The lost three months of the schooner James of Llanelli – a maritime mystery
Maritime Wales/Cymru a’r Mor Number Thirty Six 2015.

Do not hesitate to make contact if you are interested in any of the above.


Ken Davies