There was a time when much of Britain celebrated Easter, the holiest Christian festival, at a different time to the rest of Western Europe. This was due to the way that the monks at Iona calculated the date of Easter in relation to the spring equinox. The monastery in Iona had been established by monks who had sailed from Ireland and so this is known as the Celtic tradition. However this in itself is somewhat confusing as the Irish tradition of Christianity was established by a British saint – Saint Patrick. Just to add one final layer of confusion to this story no one would have used the word Celtic to describe themselves or their church. Celtic is a greek based word and was introduced much much later and it, in my view, is totally misplaced as ‘Celtic’ does not represent the true nature of the complex prehistoric seafaring culture of the British Isle and the western coast of Europe down to modern Portugal. It is very unlikely to have seen itself as an off shot of a central European proto germanic people later known as ‘the celts’. The confusion over the date of Easter was finally resolved at the Synod of Whitby when the Roman rather than the British Isles’ dating system was adopted – yet another example of European law superseding a good traditional British system. (May I apologise to all those who may be offended by my running roughshod over a complex series of interconnected traditions that go back centuries)
This complex story is very apt at this time as it just about sums up the messy relationship between the British Isles and mainland Europe – very similar yet all the time just a little bit different. Of course Europe isn’t made up of a homogeneous people but many differing views and aspirations not just reflected by the current arrangement of borders – most modern countries of Europe are very very new – the Bundesrepublik Deutschland (modern Germany) is one of the most recent established in 3rd October 1990. This tale in a way just shows how complex Brexit will be for all sides – although the Holy Roman Empire, roughly modern central Europe was dissolved simply in 1806 and the constituent parts continue to trading and deal with one another much as before (surely this is the Brexiteers dream scenario). Of course as with everything in history it was far more complex and many of those complexities took the best part of 150 years of wars to resolve – something that the Brexiteers would like you not to dwell upon.
These strange juxtapositions were going through my head yesterday after reading a wonderfully written article by Lord Pannick QC about the relationship of the British Supreme Court of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) after Brexit. The nub of the article was how should the Supreme Court use the rulings of the ECJ in their business going forward after Britain has left the European Union as they relate to European rules that will become British rules as a result of the proposed Great Repeal Act? Now this may seem a very arcane thing to write about and typical of a lawyer who can’t see the great opportunities that the country will be offered by leaving the European Union. The problem with this gloss is that as was shown just before Christmas arcane legal arguments can come back and bit you hard if you haven’t sorted them out. One of the reasons to take this seriously is that the city of London earns a huge amount of money by being the defacto place to sign international contracts. This is due, inpart, to the English legal system being seen as one of the least corrupt systems in the world and for Britain to succeed we need to keep this business which I am sure we will but this issue will need to be clarified. I am sure that it will but it needs to be added to the very very long list of issues that need to be sorted out by the end of March 2019 – just over 700 days away.
I don’t recall any mention of the complexities involved being mentioned by any of the Brexiteers during the campaign – campaign in poetry indeed govern in prose – only problem is they weren’t campaigning to govern just to dump a right mess on all of our laps. Of course all of these issues will be sorted but don’t expect things to be straightforward indeed to quote a leading Brexiteer – ‘There will be a few bumps in the road’. I suspect the frequency of these bumps will be much greater than a few but this is what we voted for so we have to make the best of this pig’s breakfast.
With those happy thought coursing through your heads may I wish you a happy Easter.