Brexit campaigners have been mocked for an attempt to show Britain can thrive outside the European Union after they presented the bloc’s top negotiator with a hamper of ‘British’ goods that have a distinctly European flavour.
A delegation led by independent MEP and ex-Ukiper Steven Woolfe today met Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, and gave him the special gift so the EU could “fully grasp the powerful commercial position Britain occupies globally”.
The hamper included Cheddar cheese, English sparkling wine and Shakespeare plays in a show of British strength designed to demonstrate the UK should not be underestimated.
The group, which also included former CBI boss Lord Digby Jones, Labour Leave chairman John Mills and former British Chamber of Commerce chief John Longworth, also contained a jar of Marmite, a biography of Winston Churchill and Hendrick’s gin.
Woolfe showcased the straw-lined offering on social media.
And the Brexit Four posed for pictures in Brussels with their wares on display.
But, as the pro-EU Open Britain group among many others pointed out, its contents were perhaps not the best choices.
Marmite and PG Tips are brands owned by the Anglo-Dutch company Unilever, which has expressed misgivings about Brexit and expressed concern about the impact on its business.
The firm warned recently it was delaying whether to keep its headquarters in the UK – rather than the Netherlands – because of the “political turbulence” caused by Brexit.
Hendrick’s gin is made by William Grant & Sons, which warned that sales had slumped in some markets because of “exchange rate changes since the referendum”.
Some also pointed out there were few products from Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland …
… and that the products were made with Spanish oranges, had been invented abroad or inspired by Europe and beyond.
Barnier’s advisor Stefaan De Rynck suggested the basket was welcomed, but pointed out some other European connections.
Twitter lapped it up.
There were suggestions of other products more British products that should have made the cut.
And, as is increasingly common, there was a pararrel between a farcical political episode and a scene from The Office (US or otherwise).
Francis Grove-White, Deputy Director of Open Britain, said: “We have reached peak Brexit.
“Self-important charlatans marching around Brussels with hampers of quintessentially British products, many of which are owned by companies that have said they are deeply worried about the impact of Brexit, does nothing to further the national interest.
“Rather than wasting everyone’s time and making themselves look ridiculous, these hard-Brexit supporting extremists should have found themselves a local park, sat down with their hamper and had a picnic.
“This is no time for ridiculous stunts: the prosperity of our country is at stake. We must protect jobs and our economy, and that means staying in the Single Market and the Customs Union on a permanent basis.”