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Brexiteers give EU negotiator basket of 'British' goods

Alexander Pearson
January 11, 2018

The basket was supposed to make Michel Barnier "fully grasp" Britain's global commercial weight. Critics have pointed out that some of the products are not quite as British as the group had suggested.

Steven Woolfe brings a hamper to EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier
Image: Reuters/F. Lenoir

A delegation supporting Britain's exit from the European Union (EU) on Wednesday gave the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier a basket of "British" goods to signal Britain's global commercial strength.

The group included British MEP Steven Woolfe, former head of the British Chambers of Commerce John Longworth, ex-Trade and Investment Minister Digby Jones and Labour Leave Chairman John Mills.

A photo of the hamper showed a book on Britain's wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the complete works of Shakespeare, a jar of Piccadilly Piccalilli, a pottle of Marmite yeast-based spread, a box of PG Tips tea bags, and a jar of jam. Woolfe said the team also gave Barnier a bottle of English wine, some gin and a lump of cheddar cheese.

Read more: Brexit: Berlin nixes UK plea for bespoke banking deal

'British' goods?

But critics said some of the products were not as British as the group had claimed.

Michel Barnier
Michel Barnier gladly received the hamperImage: Reuters/P. Noble

In a reply to Woolfe, one Twitter user pointed out that the Anglo-Dutch firm Unilever produced Marmite and PG Tips.

Unilever said in November that uncertainty about Britain's post-Brexit relationship with the EU was making it difficult for the company to decide on whether to move its headquarters to Britain or the Netherlands.

Barnier's advisor, Steefan De Rynck, wrote on Twitter that some goods were marked with EU logos: "Dorset cheese w/ #EU protected origin, marmelade w/ EU organic logo." But he added that Barnier nonetheless "liked the basket a lot."

Read more: 'Leave' champion Nigel Farage says EU doesn't get Brexit

The leader of Britain's Liberal Democrat Party, Vince Cable, told British daily The Independent, "This is a wonderfully cack-handed attempt to hamper relations with the EU's chief negotiator."

"Marmite and PG Tips are symbolic of the close trading relationship we enjoy with our neighbors. They are wonderful examples of how an EU country and the UK can work so well together to produce great British favorites."

Woolfe, who left the UK Independence Party in 2016 after fighting with another UKIP MEP, had told The Daily Telegraph ahead of the meeting that the gesture would make Barnier "fully grasp the powerful commercial position Britain occupies globally and how a deal between Europe's third largest economy and the EU trading bloc is in both sides' interests."

Read more: Brexit Diaries 23: Onward and upwards 2018

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