Roger Ratcliffe’s next birthday is the big one

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It’s not Halloween until next week yet all those bat and spider decorations, plastic witches’ hats and luminous skeleton outfits have been on supermarket shelves since early September. The season of ghouls, ghosts and vampires seems to get earlier and earlier.

Around the same time, I spotted in one Leeds shop another somewhat premature seasonal product – a Brexmas card. Yes, you read that correctly. You can now send Brexmas cards to your friends and relations, although before doing so it might be wise to find out if they are likely to find this looming national disaster even remotely funny.

The card manufacturers have done their best to raise a laugh, of course, with greetings like “We wish EU a Merry Christmas” and cartoons of people complaining that their Xmas dinner just isn’t the same without any Swede or Brussels on the plate, and Santa’s sleigh being hauled by dogs sporting fake antlers because the UK’s new immigration controls prevented Lapland’s reindeers from entering the country.

But out of this piece of retail opportunism comes an idea for the future. Perhaps 29 March, when we are destined to leave the European Union, might become one of those dates on the calendar that is for evermore a cause for national grieving/celebrating (delete as applicable).

I see Brexit Day as becoming a sort of Halloween, Bonfire Night and Christmas all rolled into one. To Brexiters it would no doubt be as joyful as Trafalgar Day, which marks Admiral Nelson’s great naval victory over the Spanish fleets in 1805. Back in the 1990s, in fact, the Conservative Party’s right wing tried to persuade then prime minister John Major to declare Trafalgar Day,
21 October, a public holiday as replacement for the red flag-waving May Day introduced by Labour in 1978. I expect the Tories will fall over themselves to declare 29 March a national holiday.

For Remainers, I see those scary skeleton suits that kids wear at Halloween inspiring a range of Jacob Rees-Mogg outfits, while Brexiters will wish to buy masks depicting the German Chancellor Angela Merkel as a witch. And depending on which side of the argument you stand, the Brexit Night bonfires will either replace Guy Fawkes with Liam Fox or burn effigies of the EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

I think Christmas offers the best ideas for Brexit Day activities. If you’re against our withdrawal from Europe then we could create a new folk tradition in which Father Brexmas, a large blonde man wearing a Union Jack suit, ho-ho-hos as he steals toys off children.

Of course there will have to be a Brexit cake, one which – in the manner of EU president Donald Tusk’s joke on Twitter – is unadorned with cherries. And there’s more bad news: we are not allowed to both have our cake and eat it.

There’ll be Brexit Day cards too, a bit like those at Christmas except – for Remainers – they will show mothers giving birth in stables because that £350 million extra for the NHS failed to materialise and our hospitals have no more room for inpatients.

Also, I hope there’ll be presents on Brexit Day. Naked self-interest alert – 29 March happens to be my birthday, and I have always envied those Noels and Noelle’s who get two lots of presents at Christmas.

Roger Ratcliffe has worked as an investigative journalist with the Sunday Times Insight team and is the author of guidebooks to Leeds and Bradford. Follow him onTwitter @Ratcliffe

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