(in a parallel universe not far away…)
Bzzz…zzzt…Ssshwweek…service of the BBC; here is the news. The confrontation on the Goodwin Sands over Sandwich Cricket Club’s insistence on playing its traditional ‘Low-Tide Annual’ cricket match there has caused another incident with Spain. When the vessel heading out to retrieve the two teams and spectators on Thursday 25th July was intercepted by a Spanish patrol boat operating out of Puerto Carnero, only intervention by HM Coastguard helicopters saved them from being swept away on the encroaching tide.
The Home Secretary has sent a strongly worded note to the Spanish Ambassador and process is being entered in the International Court in The Hague accusing Spain of irresponsible behaviour by a sovereign state in endangering the lives of citizens of a fellow EU member going about their lawful business.
Always claimed as a part of Kent and therefore British territory, the Goodwin Sands, which shift position with the strong currents of the English Channel, have been in dispute for the last four hundred years, since the Armada, blown North after their naval defeat at Calais, landed their 17,000 soldiers on the Isle of Thanet, which they occupied and claimed for Spain. Unable to be reinforced with a further 16,000 troops from the Spanish Netherlands under the Duke of Parma, they were unable to enlarge their bridgehead and a stalemate ensued over the next 15 years, with English and Spanish forces facing each other across the Wansum Channel. Peace only came with Elizabeth’s death and the accession of James I & VI.
Having lost Calais 30 years earlier and with strong Spanish forces now entrenched on both sides of the Channel, the English never felt in a position to retake Thanet, which the Spanish renamed as Toliano and maintained as a fortress by regularly dredging the Wansum Channel so that ships could pass right round.
As the years progressed, the Spanish governors of Toliano (unlike those across the Channel) ran an administration of religious toleration. In this, they were aided by the closeness of the CofE to Catholicism. This allowed them to avoid the unrest that swept the Netherlands out of Spanish control by 1648. The then-isolated province provided a well-placed entrepôt for a third-rate Spain to participate in the booming trade enjoyed by ports in the Thames and Low Countries, much to Spain’s advantage and which continues today with the high-speed cross-channel ferry fleet operating out of Puerto Carnero to both France and Belgium.
In justifying the incident, Agencia EFE, S.A. in Madrid issued the following statement:
“The Government of Spain deplores provocative intrusions of English malcontents onto sovereign Spanish soil of its overseas province of Toliano, subversively timed for the Feast of Santiago Apostel holiday. With a history stretching back before there even was a United Kingdom, the people of Toliano see themselves as Spanish and inheritors of the historic greatness of Spanish culture, to which they have made their own contributions, such as Paella Puerta Maria (Margate-style fish stew—Ed.), Gadd’s Escalera beer and the Sound Island Festival.
“Our people are fully aware of the potential for renewable energy generation in the form of wind, wave and tidal that the 50 sq km of Goodwin offers and regard any intrusion, whether under guise of sport or not, to be provocation and attempted undermining of the rights and inheritances of Spanish citizens everywhere.
“Despite English harassment, such as random closing of the border at Wansum Channel and ignoring our legal rights, Los Tolianos will continue to resist any talk of return to English rule. To hold historic grudges for hundreds of years is surely a throwback to faded English imperial glory now long past.
¡Vivan el pueblo Toliano!”