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Desperate times. A new way out of the Brexit impasse

January 20th, 2019

The train is hurtling down the track and the cliff edge of 11pm on 29 March 2019 approaches. The overwhelming majority of the House of Commons is unwilling to countenance no deal, but there is nothing approaching a majority on what they would in practice countenance. Different groups compete for power, some reaching for the brake and some arguing that we should speed up to get to 88mph to zap us back to 1955. No resolution is in sight and a terrible fate beckons.

What are the options? Britain can leave with no deal. It can sign up for a deal that has just been rejected by a majority of 230 MPs. It can try to negotiate something new, though the EU has consistently and repeatedly said that it won’t renegotiate. It can decide to remain in the EU. It can ask for extra time, which it might not get. Or it can revoke its notice to quit and do some further thinking that way. None of these options look anywhere near commanding a consensus.

Is there anything else?  There’s always something else. All you need is a little imagination. The problem essentially comes from the fixing of the deadline. Let’s work on that then.

The measurement of time has been under state control since the beginning of time, right up to the present day. Following the example of Julius Caesar and Augustus, the former president of Turkmenistan renamed the months, including one for himself and one for his mother. But I deplore his lack of ambition and think we should be raising our sights, just as the early Romans did. For what we are in urgent need of is an extra month.

There are 365 days in the year. We can reallocate these into thirteen 28 day months. (This leaves a day over and the challenge of leap years, but I’ll come back to that aspect.) The past convention of naming months after the political leader would not work, since we already have a May.  Perhaps the naming right could be auctioned in order to reduce the national debt. Amazon, for example, sounds suitably classical.

This has numerous advantages. For starters, calendars would never need to change. They can go from being throwaway items to luxury objects. Next up, if we make 1 January a Monday, paraskevidekatriaphobia will be a thing of the past. Every monthly paid worker would get a one-off 8.33% pay rise, helping to alleviate the long squeeze on wages growth at a stroke.

This leaves the question of the 365th day and leap days. This can be dealt with by adding intercalenary days, attached to no month and not being a day of the week. Britain doesn’t have enough Bank Holidays, so Meeks Days (like school inset days, I expect they will be known by the name of their creator) will serve yet another valuable function. Stick them – one, or two in a leap year – between June and July and we can hope for good weather and a day off for the Wimbledon final too.

What would this mean for Brexit? The timid might hope to buy another 28 days by inserting a new month between February and March, and hope that might be enough to sort things out. The observant will note that with each month having 28 days, the 29th of March becomes the twelfth of never. Brexit would not have been revoked or delayed. It would simply have been teleported safely into an alternate universe.

Now it might be argued, perhaps by those who have advocated that Britain should go into union with Australia Canada and New Zealand or by those who have advocated that the vote should be removed from the over 75s, that this idea is far too eccentric to be worthy of further attention. The time has come, however, to think laterally. What the country needs is more time. Parliament with its newly-rediscovered sovereignty should legislate to provide us with exactly that.

Alastair Meeks