Today I went to visit the Museum of London, which is just round the corner from the Barbican. What I was actually there for was to see a bit of the BT Connected Earth collection, of which there was a small part there including a K2 phone box, a few old mobile phones and a line card from the UK’s first ever digital exchange to enter service, called the Empress (because it was installed at the Empress trunk exchange in London, having been developed by the GPO Dollis Hill research centre in the 1960s).
Obviously the Museum of London isn’t just a telecoms museum, so naturually I had a look around the whole thing, and I stumbled across an interesting fact that I didn’t know before about Brexit – and that is that the idea is much older than most people think.
According to the displays in the museum, back in the 3rd Century AD, at the time of the Roman occupation, the British (or Britannia was it was then) declared independence not once, but twice in the space of a few decades. The first attempt was called the Gallic Empire in AD 260 which was a breakaway group of countries consisting of Germania, Gaul, Britannia (roughly the modern day equivalent of Western Europe including Germany and many countries west of it, including France and England and Wales), and for some of the time Hispania, or modern-day Spain and Portugal were also included. The Gallic Empire lasted until 274, when the Romans took it all back again.
The second attempt was a purer Brexit, in that Britannia went it (almost) alone, in AD 286 when Carausius decided to declare himself emperor of Britannia and northern Gaul. This Brexit lasted nearly 10 years, but northern Gaul (modern-day northern France) was retaken by the Romans in 293, whereas the Britons held out until 296 when the Romans managed to take it back.
So there you are – Brexits are older (and more frequent) than you might think!