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ArticlesLaterally Speaking by Humphrey Walwyn

Laterally Speaking by Humphrey Walwyn

So, in just a few short weeks, we’re all going to know the answer. Will it be a yes or will it be a no? This is probably the most important question ever to be asked in the UK. Like Ever! Really! Never mind Europe—the world itself and the entire solar system waits to see what will happen… namely, will England succeed in qualifying from their group and join the last 16 at the Euro 2016 football championships in June?

Yes, the Euro Footie finals just happen to take place at the same time as a certain UK referendum event. So, while we’re working ourselves into paroxysms of passion and debating whether to stay or to leave, the rest of Europe will be excitedly glued to their TVs watching Sweden play Belgium or somebody. I find this strangely comforting. It shows that – despite the screaming headlines and alarmist threats of gloom and doom (“End Of UK If We Leave” and “UK Will Collapse If We Stay”)—life for the rest of Europe continues much the same as usual.

I reckon we’ve had so many facts chucked at us by both sides that I’m starting to lose touch with reality and I’m hyper-ventilating and yawning at the same time. This is not only difficult to do, it is also bad for your health (Brussels Euro Health Edict number 335.6/16). Our dog has hidden himself in his basket until after June 23rd. I feel like doing the same but before I do, I am going to try to offer you some clarity amid all the confusing arguments. We all need some really useful simple facts about the EU so you can then make up your own minds which way to vote. This will help clear the Euro smoke from the playing field (so to speak in football riot terms). So here is my lateral guide to Europe – I hope it helps a little bit. Actually, possibly not.

European Flag: features a circle of 12 gold stars on a blue background. Just so you know, the number of stars has absolutely nothing to do with the number of EU members. The number was chosen because twelve is apparently a symbol of unity, harmony and peace. Yes really. Also there are 12 signs of the zodiac, 12 months of the year, 12 hours of the day and 12 hours of the night, 12 Apostles and 12 days of Christmas. It’s also the total number of studio albums released by the Beatles and the number of inches in a foot but neither of those facts would have persuaded me to vote for twelve. But then we also have movies like 12 Angry Men and (even more famously) the Dirty Dozen. So, twelve it is. Personally, I think seven stars would have been better. 7 days in a week and 7 brides for 7 brothers. And how can you compare any lesser movie with the Magnificent Seven?

Switzerland: the only country in Europe where it’s illegal to flush the loo after 10pm at night (true). Is this why Switzerland is not an actual EU member even though it is surrounded by countries that are?

Fast French Food Facts: Croissants are lovely and they are French. Wrong. Croissants were invented in Austria. Another celebrated French delicacy is “frogs’ legs” but did you know that Europe now imports over 6,000 tons of frogs’ legs each year from south east Asia? No, I didn’t think you did, and here’s another French Food Fable for you… France is known for eating steaks of horse. Indeed, over two million horses are consumed in this fashion every year in Europe. Yuk. However, under recently passed European legislation, it’s now illegal to eat your own horse if it’s a pet. So, Princess Anne and all local Pony Club members throughout Dorset, Devon and Somerset can relax. Star and Flicka can stay safely in their paddock and won’t be featuring on the local pub menu.

Way Out: Until now, the only country to have ever voted to leave Europe was Greenland in 1985. But Greenland is a huge island occupied by a relatively tiny number of people whereas the UK is a relatively tiny island filled with a huge number of people, so I don’t think this fact is very useful. Sorry.

Hot air: Children under the age of eight are not legally allowed to blow up balloons in Europe. I thought this might help you decide whether to stay or to go. And if you’re still unclear about which way to vote, here are some new EU definitions to help you.

Sound of mEUsic: Alternative name for Eurovision song contest

EU were made for me: 1964 hit by Freddie and the Dreamers – surprisingly not yet used as a theme song by the pro-Europe lobby.

EU’ve lost that lovin’ feeling: Similar theme to above but this time for the pro-Brexit lobby. Also a golden oldie number one hit by the Righteous Brothers.

EUrhythmics: Perhaps a new method of contraception as approved by Brussels. Also a 1980s band fronted by Annie Lennox.

Euuugh: Nasty noise I make when discovering more unwanted bits of pro or anti Europe propaganda in my letter box.

Euthanasia: Looking forward to end of June when we can finally put this whole Europe debate out of its misery and send it to sleep until the next referendum in about 20 years time.

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