It must have seemed such a marvellous idea. Former UKIP MEP (now Independent) Steven Woolfe and Lord Digby Jones had somehow managed to secure a meeting, or more a brief meet and greet, with Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier and obviously they were in need of a photo opportunity. Why not bring him a ‘hamper of UK goodies’ loaded with quintessentially British products – to show what Britain had to offer the world in the post Brexit apocalypse – sorry – “opportunity.”
Things might have gone to plan if they had kept very quiet indeed about it – but that didn’t happen and ridicule ensued. Now – regular readers will know that ‘ridicule’ is something very much frowned upon in the pages of this site and so instead let’s start by having a good laugh (look surely?) at their expenditure.
We have scrutinised the hamper and contents and while Mr Barnier will no doubt be delighted with the gin – this is very much a 99p Brexit basket in both style and content:
- English sparkling wine (Chapel Down £22)
- Small bottle Hendrick’s Gin (£16.50)
- A good looking Cheddar cheese from Paxton and Whitfield (£5.75)
- The Complete works of Shakespeare (edition £9.02)
- A bottle of English (Bulmers) cider (indeterminate) (£1.98)
- A collection of essays about Winston Churchill (£4.50)
- Fortnum and Mason Piccalilli (£4.95)
- A jar of Marmite (£4.75)
- Box of PG Tips (original) teabags (£3.00)
- Organic Highgrove Marmalade (£6.95)
- Generic Fortnum and Mason 3 mini classic teas (£13.95)
Total value £93.35 – and adding in the cost of the hamper it would appear that they went £3.00 over what was clearly a £100 budget. But these are after all tough times and anyway – I’m sure Mr Woolfe could justify that expense on his €4,342 monthly EU MEP General Expenditure Allowance.
More interesting perhaps – are the contents themselves which neatly reveal the old truism that if you send muppets to do diplomacy – well expect muppet diplomacy in return. As was quickly pointed out – almost everything in the hamper was symbolic of – well just about everything Brexit does not stand for:
Hendrick’s Gin – gin is a Dutch drink which, according to legend, arrived on these shores with Willliam of Orange. The word ‘gin’ itself is derived from French – genièvre – meaning juniper berries.
PG Tips – what could be more British than a nice cup of English P.G. Tips? Well – pretty much anything – given that the tea itself (obviously) isn’t grown in the UK and that the company is also owned by – Unilever.
Highgrove Marmalade – yum, yum, yum. Yummy marmalade – a Portuguese invention made with Spanish oranges. This particular brand is sold by the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha family’s heir apparent – young chap called Charles – whose father was a Greek-German refugee.
Shakespeare – extensive (well four minutes) research shows this particular copy to be about the cheapest hard backed one you can buy – suggesting it was almost certainly printed – like most books – in China. Shakespeare himself lifted most of his best known non history plays from existing European texts and stories. No European literature – no Bard.
English cider – Bulmers is owned by Heineken International. Cider itself was introduced to Britain by the Romans.
Fortnum and Masons Piccalilli – Piccalilli is one of those fascinating British takes on a much better Asian original. See also – Worcestershire sauce. Piccalilli is an admittedly delicious rip-off of Indian chutney and a lovely reminder that while we invaded and plundered other countries for centuries – we still took time to counterfeit their condiments.
Churchill Essays – Winston Churchill – son of an immigrant – believed in a United Federal Europe – if only Messrs. Woolfe and Jones had bothered to read at some point in their lives.
Indeed – ironically perhaps – the only truly British thing in the picnic basket is the Chapel Down sparkling wine. What with recent suggestions that the ‘methode Champenoise’ originated in England and given that the grapes were grown and harvested in the UK – this does seem to be a genuinely British product. Sure, the people who harvested the grapes were almost certainly migrant workers from the EU but hey ho – we can’t have our cake and eat it. Mind you – giving English wine to a Frenchman does rather smack of sending coals to Newcastle. One can only hope Monsieur Barnier has a sense of awareness and humour that Digby Jones and Steven Woolfe clearly do not.