The latest EU directive: Irish theme pubs

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The Independent Online

We British, here on the far reaches of the European Union, often feel remote from what is going on inside it. And now news has reached us that another batch of countries is joining the EU, countries we hardly know or have been introduced to. Do you sometimes feel as if you are at a party where everyone knows each other except you?

Well, to bring you up to date and get rid of that wallflower feeling, here is a brief briefing session on the latest developments.

Q: What is the difference between Slovakia and Slovenia?

A: Don't try to be clever. You're not really interested in that, are you? Just ask something like, how many countries are there now in the EU?

Q: How many countries in Europe now belong to the EU?

A: That is also the wrong question, I'm afraid. As there are now so many member states, it has become much easier to ask which countries in Europe don't belong to the EU.

Q: Oh. How many countries in Europe still do not belong to the EU?

A: Hundreds, actually.

Q: Such as?

A: Monaco. San Marino. The Vatican. Bulgaria. Romania. Lundy...

Q: Oh, come on! Are these real countries? For instance, is San Marino really an independent country?

A: Sure. Any country which can go into the Eurovision Song Contest, or which has its own international football team, its own stamps and more than 10 Irish theme pubs, can be deemed to be an independent country.

Q: Right. Incidentally, what is the difference between an Irish theme pub and an Irish pub?

A: An Irish pub is a pub of the kind you find in Ireland. An Irish theme pub is one promoted by the marketing division of a big brewery, invented and designed by a man who has never been to Ireland but who has heard the word "craic" and quite likes the sound of it. I passed one of these Irish theme pubs in the city of Bath the other day. It was called "Flan O'Brien's". One wonders if they were thinking of Flann O'Brien, the great comic Irish writer, and, if they were, how they could have spelt it wrong. The answer is, very easily, if you're in the marketing division.

Q: Never mind about that. Does the Vatican really have its own football team?

A: Oh, sure. Some of the younger cardinals have formed themselves into a talented fast-flowing squad of players who are ruthless in the tackle, merciless in front of goal, and endowed with one superior quality that no other football team has ever had.

Q: Really?

A: Yes. They have the supreme advantage of all speaking Latin and thus being able to communicate on the field in a language that the other side cannot understand.

Q: Really? Then what is the Latin for "Shown the red card"?

A: Pass.

Q: All right. What is the latin for "pass"?

A: Nescio.

Q: If hordes of unemployed cardinals were to come over to Britain, what would David Blunkett's policy be?

A: He would let them in if they had special skills.

Q: Do cardinals have any special skills?

A: They are very secretive, devious, manipulative, Machiavellian and sex-starved.

Q: So they would make good British politicians?

A: Yes.

Q: If David Blunkett were to seek work abroad in the EU, what kind of work would his special skills fit him for?

A: That's a trick question, isn't it?

Q: Yes.

A: Then I refuse to answer it.

You may have ended this briefing session on the EU feeling that you know less about it than you did before. Do not worry. This is quite normal with briefing sessions about the EU.