Opinion

A joyous Big Issue snowman for troubled Brexit times

"The general sense that the Brexit extraction is a complete, worrying mess is settling upon us all like a scratchy dust"

Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker

Eamon De Valera was not a chap renowned for a sense of humour. A stiff prim man, he was a founding father of the Irish Free State and crafted the constitution.

Apparently during negotiations with the British government he became so exasperated with the lack of knowledge about Irish history that he started to provide lectures on it. Which must have been a laugh. When asked how the talks were going, he said “Very good – we’re up to 1798.” That’s a good line.

For the Irish, the past is not another country. It’s an absolute part of the here and now

This may well be apocryphal but it’s indicative. For the Irish, the past is not another country. It’s an absolute part of the here and now. I have relatives whose faces darken at the mere mention of the potato famine.

The De Valera tale also shows the Irish don’t like to be played for fools, to be dismissed as clod-hopping lesser cousins who’ll do the bidding of their overseers over the water.

This surely is known.

It means the gathering storm around the Irish border post-Brexit should come as a surprise to absolutely nobody. And that any deflection, any shifting of responsibility from those who voted for it to those who have to live with the decision, will not be met with a passive smile.

The truth is, this is one complex part of a hugely complex thing that is showing no signs of becoming any less complex. I’m beginning to feel sorry for David Davis. He appeared to believe the best way to get through Brexit was the diplomatic equivalent of a mother dabbing a tissue with her tongue and wiping clean any problem with a firm, ‘there’s nothing wrong – get on with it. Sure look at those starving children who really HAVE something to cry about!’

Which is rather limited.

Will there be a border? Clearly, given the terms of Brexit, there has to be. How will it be enforced? Loosely, probably. Maybe. Maybe not. I suspect we’ll see tighter controls at Northern Irish ports and airports. Growing up in Northern Ireland, I remember the special lanes and green embarkation cards we used to have to fill out before we set sail or took flight. Boom time for stationers ahead!

Will there be a border? I suspect we’ll see tighter controls at Northern Irish ports and airports

The general sense that the Brexit extraction is a complete, worrying mess is settling upon us all like a scratchy dust. Couple that with the general confusion at what Trump is doing to the world, the ongoing problems that Universal Credit rollout brings for the poorest in Britain, and worry about how to prevent spiralling homelessness, and it’s a time of febrile upset.

This week The Big Issue cover is designed by a six-year-old. Martin Wellstead won our annual competition. We had over 1,000 entries. Settling on one was NOT easy! And thanks to everybody who entered.

We settled with Martin because there is something about his picture that immediately lifts the spirits. Like watching Snoopy dance, it’s a glorious, elemental joyfulness.

It will not change the world. But for now, it’s enough. Thank you Martin.

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