We’ve been in an on/off relationship for centuries. Even if we leave now, it won’t be forever Sometimes, when politics screams and tears its hair out, history can rush forward with a comfort blanket to wrap round its shoulders. It’s all right, it says, calm down, we have been here before. Britain has left Europe in a huff, and been drawn back in again. It has turned its back on Europe, and turned it back again almost as often. Today is just one of those times. The ancient province of Britannia was firmly part of the Roman empire for four centuries before that empire’s disintegration forced it to leave, in 410. Two centuries later, in 664, England voted at the Synod of Whitby to rejoin what was emphatically a European union, that of the Roman Catholic church, albeit with many a squabble under the likes of Henry II and King John. In 1534, Henry VIII spectacularly withdrew from that union, and Reformation England held itself aloof from Europe’s wars of religion throughout the 16th and 17th centuries.
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