It was a big week in Europe in more ways than one. Wales is left as the standard bearer of the home nations in the Euros. Northern Ireland and the Republic get honourable mentions in the reputation stakes not only on the field but on the terraces and the pubs. The Somme commemorations recall Britain’s very literal continuing place in Europe (There is a corner of a foreign field etc.”) Modern Ireland is recovering its own memory.
In the horrible week of Brexit, the idea of Europe is very much alive.The wee nations that have kept Britain’s end up in Europe in the worst ever week for European solidarity since September 1939. This is a Europe of knock out rivals in an analogy of war, but playing it in a atmosphere of general peace after a shaky start.
In football we are four (five as the Republic counts as a “home nation”). Would a united British team or an all-Ireland squad fare better together than competing separately? Probably not. The lesson for the Euros is that provided the available talent reaches critical mass, it’s the teamwork that counts. Is there a lesson here for post Brexit. Better together or better apart?
The evidence of Better together will come if the English (remember them?) identify with Wales’ success. I see no evidence so far either way. More than understandably the Welsh are rubbing it in to the humiliated English as the Times reported (£)
This team of Welsh legends have been brought through the English leagues. Who can bleat about players being too fatigued when Wales were so full of running? All British, eh? How the Welsh would rightly laugh at that, and did so last night, their ecstatic fans singing mocking songs about England in Lille as this wonderful collective of players pulled off a brilliant and deserved triumph to reach the Euro 2016 semi-finals. They did not just beat Belgium; they were better than a side of many talents.
Football patriotism is a very different thing to the political variety. but right now, it’s the best we’ve got.
Meanwhile, my take on the first week of Brexit in an Irish Times special section.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London