A stunt pulled by a group of big name Brexiteers on a delegation to Brussels has gone badly wrong with hilarious consequences.
MEP Steven Woolfe, peer Digby Jones, and businessmen John Mills and John Longworth are in Brussels for a meeting with Michel Barnier.
To make a point ahead of talks on post-Brexit trade, the group brought a hamper of British products to give to the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator.
Woolfe, who quit UKIP after being punched by another of the party’s politicians, posted photos of the group posing with the products before the meeting:
We intend to stress the importance that an all-encompassing free trade deal is in the best interests for the people of the UK and the EU. If this is prevented, the UK will have no option but to leave without a deal and trade under WTO terms. pic.twitter.com/O32bx7qfVg
— Steven Woolfe MEP (@Steven_Woolfe) January 10, 2018
If it was meant to make a point about Britain being able to go it alone then it has badly backfired – because most of the products in the hamper have some kind of pro-EU connection.
Buzzfeed’s Jim Waterson points out two of the products are made by the expressly anti-Brexit Unilever:
Pro-Brexit campaigners present a basket of British goods to Michel Barnier. PG Tips and Marmite are made by anti-Brexit Anglo-Dutch company Unilever, Hendrick's is produced by a business that's concerned about Brexit hitting sales… it's not hard to check is it. https://t.co/fhH9rCNaFr
— Jim Waterson (@jimwaterson) January 10, 2018
Before the referendum, the company said it would be “negatively impacted” by a decision to leave.
It recently increased the price of some of its most popular products, such as Marmite and PG Tips tea, because of a slump in the value of the pound. And it is now considering whether to base its headquarters in the Netherlands.
A bottle of Hendrick’s gin was also in the hamper. The global brand director for the company that produces it gave an interview in 2016 in which he said:
“Brexit seems to be an example of increasingly protectionist political rhetoric, and that creates unwelcome uncertainty for export-orientated businesses.”
It gets worse. There’s also a box of tea from Fortnum and Masons. Its chief executive told the Guardian last month:
“Brexit is an alarming issue for me in terms of our ability to hire and retain good people,” said Venters. The collapse in the pound’s value means wages sent home to relatives are worth less but the businessman also sensed a change in mood among workers from the EU. “They are asking: ‘Do I feel welcome?’ That’s more the problem today.”
Then we come to the books. First, there’s the complete works of Shakespeare.
The director of the Shakespeare Institute, professor Michael Dobson, wrote an article about Shakespeare’s pro-European legacy in the wake of the referendum which said:
“I would add that it is even more misleading to suggest that Shakespeare thought of Britain as anything other than part of a larger geopolitical entity called Europe.”
But undoubtedly the best bit is the book on Winston Churchill. Its author might be a Brexiteer but its subject certainly wasn’t. Speaking shortly after the end of World War Two, Churchill said:
“There is a remedy which … would in a few years make all Europe … free and … happy. It is to re-create the European family, or as much of it as we can, and to provide it with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, in safety and in freedom. We must build a kind of United States of Europe.”
The irony won’t be lost on Barnier…