The campaigners claimed the basket of tasty delights would help Michael Barnier, the chief EU negotiator, “fully grasp the powerful commercial position Britain occupies globally”.
But it was quickly pointed out that two of the goods – Marmite and PG Tips tea – are made by Unilever, which is a giant Anglo-Dutch company.
Just two months ago, the firm warned it was delaying whether to consolidate its headquarters in the UK – rather than the Netherlands – because of the “political turbulence” unleashed by Brexit.
Similarly, Hendrick’s Gin, another item in the hamper, is made by William Grant Sons – which warned that sales had slumped in some markets because of “exchange rate changes since the referendum”.
Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat leader, said: “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 neighbours. They are wonderful examples of how an EU country and the UK can work so well together to produce great British favourites.”
And Caroline Lucas, the Green Party co-leader and champion of the pro-EU Best for Britain group, said: “This is a blunder that only helps hamper the Brexiteers case.
“They have taken products to Barnier for a cheap stunt, but helped made his case that Brexit will damage businesses and more importantly jobs in the UK.”
Brexit: the deciders
European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier speaks to the media as he arrives at the Council of the European Union ahead of an EU Council meeting on April 29, 2017 in Brussels, Belgium. The 27 members of the European Union will meet in Brussels for a special European Council meeting to discuss the continuing Brexit negotiation
French President Emmanuel Macron (R) at the Elysee Palace, in Paris
German Chancellor Angela Merkel
Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker
The European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt gestures as he addresses a press conference with the European Parliament president after Britain initiated the process to leave the EU
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May stands on the flight deck and speaks to crew members of the 65,000-tonne British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth after it arrived at Portsmouth Naval base, its new home port on August 16, 2017 in Portsmouth, England. The HMS Queen Elizabeth is the lead ship in the new Queen Elizabeth class of supercarriers. Weighing in at 65,000 tonnes she is the largest war ship deployed by the British Royal Navy. She is planned to be in service by 2020 and with a second ship, HMS Prince of Wales, to follow
Brexit Secretary David Davis in central London
Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, leaves 11 Downing Street, in central London
Meanwhile, the negotiator’s adviser tweeted that the hamper also contained Dorset cheese, which was protected by EU rules, and marmalade, which carried an “EU organic logo”.
The hamper, delivered by a group led by MEP Steven Woolfe, also contained English sparkling wine, Shakespeare plays and a and a biography of Winston Churchill.
The alcohol choice raised eyebrows after the EU was reportedly worried that British sparkling wine labelled as champagne will flood the market after Brexit, if rules on naming foodstuffs are scrapped.
Meanwhile, Environment Secretary Michael Gove has called for the UK to be “more patriotic” by buying in British cheese, amid concerns that Camembert and Brie will become more expensive after Brexit.
Francis Grove-White, deputy director of Open Britain, which campaigns against a hard Brexit, said: “We have reached peak Brexit. Self-important charlatans marching around Brussels with hampers of quintessentially British products, most of which are made by companies that have said they are deeply worried about the impact of Brexit, does nothing to further the national interest.”
Mr Woolfe was joined by former CBI head Lord Digby Jones, Labour Leave chairman John Mills, and former British Chamber of Commerce chief John Longworth, as they discussed Brexit with Mr Barnier.
Last week the group vowed to channel the spirit of Churchill by underlining the UK’s “iron will” to walk away from the talks if no favourable terms were reached.
The gifts would help Mr Barnier to “fully grasp the powerful commercial position Britain occupies globally and how a deal between Europe’s third largest economy and the EU trading block is in both sides’ interests,” Mr Woolfe told The Daily Telegraph.
- More about:
- Michael Barnier
- Vince Cable
- Caroline Lucas
- PG Tips