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Ancient Geological 'Brexit 1.0' Separated Britain From Europe 150,000 Years Ago

First Posted: Apr 05, 2017 05:10 AM EDT
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Geologoists are of the opinion that the first Brexit actually occurred thousands of years before the U.K. voted to politically leave the European union. A recent study indicates that the catastrophic event took place when a thin strip of land that used to connect Europe with Britain got destroyed.

According to the authors of a study that was published recently in the journal Nature Communications, a huge rock ridge connected Britain to France 450,000 years ago. The limestone ridge, whose remnants are the chalky cliffs of Dover, was breached by catastrophic flooding that destroyed the structure, which was already weakened by a glacial lake’s overflow. Consequently, with the destruction of the rock ridge, Britain was cleaved off from mainland Europe.

“The breaching of this land bridge between Calais and Dover was inarguably one of the most important events in British history, which helped to shape our island nation’s identity even today,” said Sanjeev Gupta, study co-author from Imperial College London. “Without this dramatic breaching Britain would have still been a part of Europe. This is Brexit 1.0 – the Brexit nobody voted for.”

Brexit 1.0 took place in two stages. In the first stage that likely took place 450,000 years ago, huge amounts of water spilled over as giant waterfalls from a large lake situated at the edge of a massive ice sheet that spread from Britain to Scandinavia. The spillover eroded the rock escarpment, weakened it and caused it to fail -- thereby releasing huge volumes of water onto the floor of the valley below. Researchers discovered the evidence of this spillover in the seafloor of the English Channel where seven huge plunge pools were found to have been created by the water cascading over the ridge and hitting the ground.

The second stage saw catastrophic flooding opening the Dover Strait around 150,000 years ago. Subsequently, when the Ice Age came to an end, the sea levels rose and water flowed into the gap, turning Britain into an island.

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