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History repeats itself..?

Comment
By Gordon Boyle


Every day we hear of more horrendous expectations for the UK and Europe should the UK crash out of Europe in the coming weeks.

Perhaps it would help to understand more about leaving a major political body which is nothing new for Britain.

Back in 409AD after more than 350 years of Roman conquest the British slipped from the control of Rome.

Back then the relationship with Rome was remarkably like the relationship that has been in place for decades with Brussels.

St Jerome, who at the time was recognised as the most learned individual, and who was also viewed as a leading humanist referred to Britain as an island fertile in tyrants.

There were numerous reports of rebellions against Roman rule and increasingly the benefits of remaining in Britain were reduced.

The final nail in the coffin came about because of the garrisons not being paid.

Fearful of a Germanic invasion and desperate for some sense of security in a world that seemed to be rapidly falling apart, the Romans in Britain sought greater security in strong and able military leadership.

They chose a man who had risen through the ranks as a common soldier and appointed him as emperor.

Constantine moved quickly. He crossed the Channel into Gaul taking all the mobile troops left in Britain, thus denuding the province of any first line military protection and hastening the disappearance of the legions from Britain.

This brought about major change for the population of Britain and early on the use of coins supplied from Rome was an early casualty.

No attempt appears to have been made to replace them with local coins.

The widespread pottery industry also vanished, and luxury villas were abandoned as residences.

Urban communities went into decline as local leaders and militias filled the Roman vacuum.

It seems to be clear there was no real appetite to be Roman in Britain at the time.

The symbols of Mediterranean Rome such as towns and imposing monumental buildings never really took off in Britain.

The enthusiasm to be British Roman lost out to ‘Britishness’ through a lack of commitment to being part of the extended European empire.

After the departure of the Romans there was the coming of large numbers of Germanic immigrants from across the North Sea who introduced new forms of dress, buildings and manufacturing, especially pottery.

In the west of Britain, religion had an important impact, developing new ways of expressing differences, especially through the importation of perishable goods from the Eastern Mediterranean.

Archaeologists have confirmed that the challenges we are having with the current Brexit debate to personal and group identities happened back then.

I’m sure there were leavers and remainders who debated the impact of foreign immigration and the benefits of staying in the Roman Empire.

Let’s hope that whatever happens in the months and years ahead we will ultimately see the UK prosper on their own.

Unfortunately, there are no guarantees in place and perhaps the UK will end up being a small geographical carbuncle on the far north western of Europe.

Time will tell.

Gordon is the former president and chief executive of BMMI. He can be reached at gordonboyle@hotmail.com

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