Plus ça change . . . . Embarking on Paul Johnson's book The History of the English People, I was intrigued to read that in 410 the English tribes, having seized power from the Romans, wrote to the Emperor requesting formal and legal authority for what they had done. What they sought was a written acknowledgment from the imperial power that Britain had been de-colonised without permission from the authorities. More specifically, they wanted exemption from the lex Julia de vi publica, the bedrock statute of the Roman Empire. In due course they got it. So the ancient world ended and the independent history of Britain was resumed in a thoroughly legal and constitutional manner. There was no provision in Roman Law for a territory to leave the Empire. But by an ingenious use of the lex Julia de vi publica, the British got round the difficulty and severed their links with the Continent by a process of negotiation. It was a unique event in the history of the Roman Empire. . . . For the first time a colony had regained its independence by law; and it was to remain the last occasion until, in the 20th. century, the offshore islanders began the dismantlement of their own empire.
Back to the present - if we ever left it - a survey suggests that Spanish Xmas spending will be well down on last year. 17% down, in fact. After a 10.5% fall last year and a 6% drop the previous year. Spending on lottery tickets though is 'only'14% down since 2008, with the average spend per person still up at 100 euros.
Having been into the centre of Liverpool tonight, I wouldn't be too surprised to hear that similar falls were in the offing here. Jam-packed it wasn't. But maybe it will be next week.
Just a word or two on the EU. Writing in the FT, Martin Wolf's interesting take on recent events is that they will force Germany to make a fateful choice - between a eurozone disturbingly different from the larger Germany it expected, or no eurozone at all. I recognise how much its leaders and people must hate this choice. But it is the one they face. Chancellor Angela Merkel must dare to make that choice, clearly and openly.