Brexiteers give hamper of British delicacies to EU’s chief negotiator
Delegation tell EU negotiator that any deal must not limit the UK’s ‘economic and regulatory freedom’.
Leading Brexit supporters presented the EU’s chief negotiator with a hamper of British goodies when they met him in Brussels to warn that the UK will not give up its freedoms to secure a trade deal.
Among the gifts for Michel Barnier were delicacies including British wine, gin, cheese, marmalade, Marmite and PG Tips tea as well as the complete works of William Shakespeare and a biography of Sir Winston Churchill.
Looking forward to giving Mr Barnier some fantastic products from Britain including some British wine and gin pic.twitter.com/xx69gT2siZ— Steven Woolfe MEP (@Steven_Woolfe) January 10, 2018
Critics were quick to point out, however, that both Marmite and PG Tips are owned by Anglo-Dutch company Unilever, which has expressed reservations about Brexit.
Mr Barnier’s adviser Stefaan De Rynck pointed out that the Dorset Hundred Dram cheddar contained in the hamper was protected by an EU regional designation while the marmalade jar bore an EU organic logo.
The EU negotiator had just seen Churchill biopic Darkest Hour, he added.
On the delegation visiting Mr Barnier were independent MEP Steven Woolfe, former trade minister and ex-CBI chief Lord Jones of Birmingham, Leave Means Leave co-chairman John Longworth and Labour Leave chairman John Mills.
Mr Woolfe said Mr Barnier had spoken to many UK Government representatives and backers of Remain but this was an opportunity for him to meet a cross-party group of convinced Brexiteers who could get across the message that EU withdrawal has significant support in Britain and will not be overturned.
“We told him that a trade deal should include goods and services,” said the former Ukip MEP.
“Our message was that if we don’t have an inclusive agreement for goods and services, the British public will say we should walk away with no deal.”
Francis Grove-White, deputy director of the Open Britain campaign for close ties with the EU, 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.
“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.”
Mr Woolfe said Mr Barnier was “delighted” with his gift, adding: “The package was designed to send a message that we, as Leavers, didn’t enter the meeting in an antagonistic way.
“Of course we know PG Tips started in Manchester and is now owned by an Anglo-Dutch company – it’s a perfect example of how Europe and the UK can work together in future in terms of trade, but not necessarily politics.”
The meeting came after former Ukip leader Nigel Farage held talks with Mr Barnier on Monday.
Mr Longworth said he made it clear to Mr Barnier that “no trade deal is better than a bad trade deal” and there was “no way the UK is going to reverse its decision on Brexit”.
He added that Brexit supporters would “not be prepared to negotiate away our newly-won economic freedoms” to secure a trade deal with the EU.
Mr Longworth suggested that Mrs May’s hopes of a bespoke deal with the EU would be dashed by Brussels.
“It is very clear that the idea of a special relationship deal that the Prime Minister keeps talking about is out of the question,” he said.