At a time when British Prime Minister Theresa May is trying hard to seal the Brexit deal, a study shows that the original Brexit took place around 450,000 years ago.

Interestingly, no one voted for it when Britain walked away from the rest of Europe at that time. Scientists explain that it happened when a strip of land, which once connected ancient Britain to Europe, was destroyed.

Researchers from Imperial College London have mentioned in their study, published recently in the ‘Nature Communications’ journal, that the Earth was in the grip of an ice age nearly 450,000 years ago and the ice stretched across the North Sea, from Britain to Scandinavia. According to researchers, the low sea levels meant the entire English Channel was a dry land, a frozen tundra landscape, crisscrossed by small rivers.

Britain’s separation from mainland Europe was believed to be the result of spill over from a proglacial lake – a type of lake that is formed in front of an ice sheet – in the North Sea. However, this theory remained unproven so far.

A decade ago, Imperial College researchers revealed the evidence of giant valleys on the seafloor in the central part of the English Channel. They claimed that these networks were evidence of a mega-flood gouging out land, which might have been caused by a breach in a rock ridge joining Britain and France.

As per the old study, the opening of Dover Strait in English Channel took place in two phases – an initial lake spill over that was followed by catastrophic flooding. And this created the current geography of Western Europe.

The new study shows for the first time the details of how this chalk ridge in the Dover Strait, between Dover and Calais, was breached. Professor Sanjeev Gupta, the lead researcher, said: “When ice age ended and sea levels rose flooding the valley floor for good, Britain lost its physical connection to the mainland. This is Brexit 1.0, and it shaped our nation’s identity.” “Without this dramatic breaching, Britain would still be a part of Europe. This is Brexit 1.0 – the Brexit nobody voted for,” he added.

Koushik Das, based in the Indian capital of New Delhi, is a senior news editor with more than 15 years of experience. He also runs a blog - Boundless Ocean of Politics. E-Mail: [email protected]