This morning I heard that David Davis, the UK Brexit Secretary, in an interview with Newsnight broadcast on 14 March, had passed off the potential problems associated with a reduced transition period for the UK assuming that it ends up leaving the European Union.
“So one of the big crunch issues on the transition – or the implementation period – is that the EU says it should end at the end of December 2020; the UK is saying it should be around 2 years – so that would be March 2021. Are you gonna [sic] compromise on that?”
In a turn of phrase that I found odd, he had referred to the difference between ending the transition period at Christmas rather than Easter, where (as far as I could work out), the original statement had been phrased in terms of ending in December 2019 or in March 2020.
Admittedly, of course, Christmas is in December (at least in the UK), and March is a relatively common time for Easter (again, in the UK). But my personal immediate reaction when thinking of Christmas is actually of a prolonged, slightly vague period of time in December; to a far larger degree, Easter is vague.
In fact I have long believed, as I imagine most people have, that Easter Sunday is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. In 2020, this means (I think) that it’s 12 April. But on reading further, it seems that while that is roughly correct, it might not be entirely so.
I have always (well, ever since I discovered the calculation, which, as with most such things, was through Dave Thomas), thought that this was arcane at best, and troublesome at worst.
Now, though, as a grown-up, when a decent part of my life involves planning things around school holidays, I’m even more convinced that having two bank holidays on what are effectively random dates in March or April, is utterly ridiculous.
Even more oddly, the Easter Act 1928 specified that Easter Sunday (or as written in the Act, “Easter-day”) should fall on the Sunday after the second Saturday in April, which would at least have tidied things up a bit; the Act has never been brought into force, which leads me to believe that no-one in a position of power really cares about this.
So to Brexit … why would David Davis talk about the difference between a transition period ending at Christmas or Easter, rather than in December or April? I can only imagine the reason is to throw general doubt into the mix, to avoid close inspection of the deal. Am I too cynical?