Clucking madness – how Brexit may pluck the UK poultry industry and put chlorinated chicken on your plate.

We eat a lot of chicken in this country. 95% of us have it at least twice a week. That’s nearly 900 million chickens bred and slaughtered, another 400 million imported (mostly from the EU) and a grand total of 6.3 billion portions served in British homes and restaurants every year. Between April and July 2017 nearly half of the population ate a take-away chicken meal and in 2011 Chicken Tikka Masala was famously judged to be the nation’s favourite dish.

We’re clucking mad for it and while that is unlikely to change any time soon Brexit will affect chicken consumption as surely as it will affect anything else.

An awful lot of energy has gone into talking up the benefits Brexit will visit on our fishing industry but you won’t see Mr Farage near a poultry abattoir any time soon. And there’s a reason for that. Chickens aren’t sexy and slaughtering them even less so. As an island nation, the mythos of the noble weather-beaten fisherman in his yellow mac, steering his trawler into brooding seas to bring a little fishy, for a little dishy looms large. Nobody ever made a children’s book about the brutal process of bringing a drumstick to your plate. The mass rearing and mass slaughter of poultry lacks the essential romance of man pitched against herring.

Chicken farming is big business and an important contributor to the UK economy. Poultry supports £3.3bn of Gross Value to the UK economy (GVA) while fishing adds just £1.4bn. The industry employs 35,000 compared to the 12,000 who work dredging the sea.

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Liam Fox – keen to see chlorinated washed chicken in the UK – he won’t be eating it

The poultry industry already struggling with tight margins to meet the demand for cheap and available meat is dreading the coming of Brexit and lobbying hard against. The situation is compounded because many employees are EU nationals and that means disaster if they all go home. 60% of the entire industry’s workforce comes from the EU and in some cases 90% of workers in factories are from Europe.

“It’s a brutal and hard job,” one former owner tells me “and British people simply won’t do it. All of our workers come from Poland or other EU countries and a lot of them will just go elsewhere.”

With the government suggesting that only high skilled workers will be welcome post-Brexit the poultry industry is facing a very uncertain future indeed. Rearing chickens, killing chickens, plucking chickens, gutting chickens, chopping chickens up and packaging them is not ‘skilled labour.’ Once the migrant workers have gone it is very unlikely indeed that British workers will step up to take their place. Brexit could make even basic chicken prodcuts harder to get – and considerably more expensive.

But if you’re worried that your KFC is going to suddenly cost a lot more then don’t panic just yet – because help (of sorts) is on its way. The poultry farmers of America are coming. Or rather – they’d like to. US farmers have long objected to all that horrid EU legislation because it means they are unable to export their birds into the large and hungry European market. You see, in order to export into the single market you have to abide by the laws of the single market – and those laws are tough.

You up for some chicken regulations? Well good – strap yourselves in and let’s go.

EU council directive 2007/43/CE sets out the minimum conditions for raising broilers. Barns used for raising chickens must have adequate light, food, water, ventilation and space. Workers have to have adequate training and a certificate attesting they have attended an approved training course. Holding areas must be thoroughly inspected twice a day. Barns must have hard floors with adequate clean bedding and have to be thoroughly cleaned, sterilised and inspected on a regular basis. There are rules on handling chickens. Rules on what they can eat. Rules on what you can do before during and after a batch has been raised. Stocking density must not exceed 33kg/mg ……. etc. etc. etc…….. boring isn’t it. A lot of EU legislation is. That’s kind of the point. The EU is brilliant at the dull end of things – that’s why Boris Johnson made up all that guff about bananas up.

Like I said – chicken production is not sexy. There are no boats. No stiff breezes. No salty seamen.

But that dull old Directive 2007/43/CE ensures that the meat which reaches your plate has been reared to standards higher than anywhere on Earth – that the animals in their brief lives have been shown some dignity (and yes it could be better) and that you and your family are unlikely to die or be hospitalised as a result of contaminated meat.

In the US by contrast there are no animal welfare laws surrounding the rearing of poultry. Yes. That’s right. None. Zero. Farmers can shove as many birds as they like into the sheds and provide as little light and ventilation as they deem necessary. Chickens in the US live their short existence shitting and pecking in confined spaces on earth floors, packed as tightly as is feasible and when they are carted off for the chop there’s no incentive or law insisting that the crap is cleaned up properly. New straw is put down over the shit and dirt and the process renews. It’s filthy, it’s unhygienic and it’s a breeding ground for bacteria and disease.

Rather than bothering with all that pesky animal welfare stuff the Americans pack em high and then to ensure that the customers don’t all die, they sterilise the meat by washing the dead bird carcasses with chlorine.

Mmmmmm. Chicken bucket anyone?

kfc

Dan Hannan MEP is the son of a Peruvian chicken farmer and he doesn’t see a problem with chlorinated chicken. He’s not alone. Lots of Brexit voices from the guys at Guido Fawkes to Jacob Rees-Mogg have ‘no problem’ with it. And do you know why that is? Well it’s because they won’t be eating it. Because if America manages to import this stuff into the UK it will go to the bottom end of the market and end up in fast food restaurants and frozen meals. I doubt Jacob Rees-Mogg steps out at the KFC much. You rarely see Dan Hannan down the Ladywell kebab house. Good news for young ‘Octopus’ and the other kids because while everyone insists that chlorinated chicken is perfectly safe, the statistics tell a different story.

Take salmonella. In the US there are 1.2 million cases every year, 23,000 hospitalisations and 450 deaths. In the EU as a whole (and bear in mind there are 150 million more EU citizens than Americans) there were 1,766 hospitalisations in 2016 and just ten deaths.

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Guido Fawkes intern Tom presents irrefutable evidence

So in essence something as mundane as your chicken nuggets, or your Balti, or that nice lunch time chicken wrap is affected by Brexit. If the EU migrants quit and the domestic industry suffers that’s not just a hole in the economy but a massive hole in your bank balance if – of course – you want a roast on Sunday or an M and S chicken sandwich. It will cost more. Probably a lot more. If the USA gets in on the action you’ll be eating an inferior product raised in unsavoury and unsanitary conditions. But hey – at least you’ll be able to cuddle up to your precious fucking sovereignty huh.

At least you’ll have that.

The EU is not the USSR. Jeremy Hunt’s deliberate stupidity simply demonstrates that Brexit Britain has jumped the shark.

Since the UK gave up being a major power and opted to be a live action sitcom instead it has faced many problems familiar to those who love the classic comedy format.

The term “Jumping the Shark” refers to the moment when great series go bad. That is when writers run out of ideas, or the material goes stale, or a key character leaves or dies or does something they wouldn’t normally do. Or when the whole cast up and move to a different location – like when Friends came to London and Joey met Fergie, or when the Tories decided to back Brexit and hold their conference in Birmingham.

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Joey meets Fergie

The Tory Conference Special started promisingly. The gang booked The ICC, a venue that had been built with £49.7 million of EU funds and whose foundation stone was laid by Jacques Delors. Then there was the app thing and the Festival of Brexit thing. All good material, but then – is it just me or does nobody’s heart seem to be in it anymore?

You get the feeling that most of the cast are just sitting it out and waiting for reruns on Dave and the occasional royalty cheque.

Most – but not all.

With break-out star Boris Johnson off pursuing solo projects, hitherto minor character “Jeremy Hunt” has been given the Foreign Secretary gig and seen his chance to shine. True, the Foreign Office under Jeremy Hunt has become much like The American Office after Steve Carrell, or Les Dennis post Dustin Gee but one time remainer Hunt sees an opportunity. So he’s switched sides and hired his own gagman and tried to insert some of his own lines into the script –

“The EU was set up to protect freedom. It was the Soviet Union that stopped people leaving. The lesson from history is clear!” Hunt told conference yesterday, “if you turn the EU club into a prison, the desire to get out won’t diminish – it will grow … and we won’t be the only prisoner that will want to escape.”

And splash. Headlines grabbed. Shark jumped. Series destined to be cancelled sooner or later but Jeremy has his eye on the sequel and Jeremy doesn’t care.

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Fonz jumps the shark in pre-Brexit era aka Happy Days

Britain voted to leave the EU in June 2016 and for better or worse (currently) Britain is leaving the EU. Nobody is stopping the UK leaving the EU. How the UK leaves is a matter of negotiation and not a matter of intimidation. The EU is not the EUSSR. So when Hunt suggests otherwise he’s making himself a laughing stock to get some headlines – and as Foreign Secretary he’s pulling us all under with him.

The USSR killed millions of its own people, sent many millions more into labour camps, locked up dissenters and forcibly relocated millions of Kulaks to Siberia. The Soviet Union was a dictatorship. The Soviet Union crushed neighbouring countries, threatened to annihilate the West with nuclear weapons, interfered in the affairs of sovereign nations and murdered, tortured and bullied anyone who got in their way. There were no democratic elections in the USSR. Yes there were elections – but only approved members of the Communist Party could stand. There were no opposition parties. There was no UKIP or Five Star.

Nobody opted to join the Soviet Union. Nobody wanted to. Nobody could vote to leave. At times the people starved. Ordinary food and goods were in short supply. You waited a decade for a shit car – which probably didn’t work. Censorship banned anything and everything not approved by the State – from the pop music stylings of the Village People to Beatles mop tops. Unemployment was a crime. Independent thought got you locked up in the insane asylum. There was a Ministry of Jokes that censored humour.

The Soviet Union did not prosper. It stopped the free movement of people and in particular its people. If you tried to leave it or one of its satellite nations – they either locked you up – or shot you as you ran away.

Migrants fleeing wars didn’t want to go to the USSR because the USSR was the very opposite of the EU in every meaningful way.

Nobody perhaps knows this better than Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, who in the 1980s, while Mr Hunt was Head Boy at the exclusive Charterhouse public school, was a member of the anti-Communist student solidarity movement in Warsaw.

Jeremy Hunt is wholly out of order. Jeremy Hunt should apologise. He won’t. Because Jeremy Hunt knows what he’s doing – he’s reading from the script.

We’re in “After Mash” the M*A*S*H sequel. And if you’ve never heard of it – there’s a reason for that.

aftermash

Time to wake up Britain. The EU does not need us more than we need them.

Fresh from the disaster at Salzburg, with her back to the wall, the Chequers deal as dead as Gary Glitter’s career and the ERG circling, Theresa May has delivered a combative speech at Number 10. You can imagine the crisis meeting that led up to that one:

“What can we do now? Even Tusk is openly mocking us.”

“Nothing. We’re fucked.”

“I know, deliver a combative speech. Make yourself look their equal. Keep up the pretense that this is two equivalent sides negotiating a trade deal.”

“But everyone knows that’s bullshit.”

“No they don’t! That’s the beauty of all of this! Nobody has worked it out…….. Yet.”

And so Mrs May trots out in front of the press and puts on her best Maggie Thatcher face and says: “It is not acceptable to simply reject the other side’s proposal without a detailed explanation and counter proposal.”

That’s telling them Theresa.

That’ll show em….

It sounds perfectly reasonable as well. I mean perfectly reasonable if you haven’t read Article 50. Because Article 50 says that it is the Union that negotiates and concludes an agreement with the exiting state and it is the Union that sets out the arrangements for that withdrawal and that it is the Union that sets out the framework of the future relationship between the two. And this Union does not have to play ball if it doesn’t want to.

This is not, nor has it ever been – a negotiation.

In the run up to the EU referendum one of the most popular tropes trotted out by the Leave camp was: ‘they need us more than we need them.’ Whenever a Remain voice started to explain the complexities of leaving the Single Market, or the issues surrounding security, trade, law, freedom of movement or how the many thousands of British citizens living in the EU would cope……. Farage or one of his mates would pop up and say:

“Ah but they need us more than we need them! German car manufacturers will still want to sell BMWs to Britain and they won’t let anything get in the way of that.”

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“If a democracy cannot change its mind….”

It chimed well with the public, largely because it was a simple concept that people could get their heads around. Why deal with challenging questions when you can grasp simplistic platitudes. Unfortunately, as with a lot of Brexit catchphrases – see also “take back control of our borders” “take back our sovereignty” and “take back control of our fish” it was a pile of dead pollocks. The UK needs the EU for the simple reason that they are our biggest trading partner. While the EU is responsible for around 43-50% of all of our exports just 8-18% of all EU 27 exports go to the UK . The EU is the second biggest economy in the world and there are nations lining up to do business with them. They do need us yes – but not more than we need them.

But if truth was the first casualty of Brexit, the second was our negotiating hand. For in her resolve to appear steely and Prime Ministerial and determined to carry out “the wishes of the British people” Theresa May rushed to invoke Article 50 – without apparently reading it first. By doing so she effectively triggered the mechanism on the time-bomb without thrashing out the terms for entering the bomb shelter first.

It was clear from the start that the EU would not be doing things on the UK’s terms – largely because this would be to allow Britain to have a better EU deal outside of the Union than anyone has inside it and secondly, because they don’t have to.

The UK thus currently finds itself in a position akin to a tub of ice cream, on the back seat of a car, on a very hot day, trying to work out its future relationship with the Sun. And why? Well in part – because 17 million people thought it easier to parrot Mr Farage’s old pollocks rather than read and digest a page of A4 and a booklet thoughtfully posted through their door. I mean that would have been like homework or something…….

Spoon of warm cream anyone?

The rise and fall of Katie Hopkins – a 21st Century morality tale – would be Apprentices take note

In late August 2018 Ezra Levant – owner of Canadian based “Rebel Media” – announced to a waiting world that he had organized a cruise. The boat trip would give fans from across the Globe a chance to rub shoulders “with some of our most interesting Rebel personalities” as they cruised along “the Danube River, sailing from Germany, through Austria, to Slovakia and ending in beautiful Budapest, Hungary.” But who were these ‘interesting Rebel personalities?’ Step forward one Stephen Yaxley Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson) and former Apprentice star Katie Hopkins. There was also Daniel Pipes of the Middle East Forum but Dan was very much the “non Goss Bros member” in this jaunt and as such can be safely edited from the narrative.

The 68 places on the trip didn’t come cheap. A single standard berth on the Alt-right Love Boat started at a hefty $7,000 (US dollars) excluding transfer fees. With doubles at $3,590 per person and 68 cabins this was clearly going to be something of a money spinner for Mr Levant and his star attractions. If he could sell enough tickets. Because if you are asking yourself whether the average Tommy Robinson fan would be able to fork out eight or nine grand (with transfers and spending money) on a week-long boat trip through Central Europe just to spend time with their diminutive hero – well me too. I think of little else.

But perhaps it wasn’t about Tommy. Perhaps Lord Sugar’s former sparring partner Katie Hopkins would be the big draw – because fun, feisty Katie Hopkins is undoubtedly the most renowned former contestant (on this side of The Atlantic at least) of the long running show and a bit of a celeb.

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Hopkins posing with teenagers – who very wisely asked to be pixallated after the encounter

Hopkins famously didn’t win The Apprentice. She was smart enough to realise, in what were the early days of reality TV, that the real prize was not going off to work for Sir Alan, selling shitty telephones in some shitty warehouse in Loughton – but fame.

And so, after graduating from Series 3 she became a professional outrage machine. Her persona was much the same as the one she had honed on the show. Straight talking, no nonsense, prepared to call fat people fat and desperate people ‘cockroaches.’ For a decade she moved from Big Brother sofa to Morning TV sofa and the strategy worked. She got a column in the Sun and then one at the Mail Online and eventually landed her own show on LBC. Those last gigs would have been very lucrative work and much better paid than anything she would have gained from the ‘apprenticeship.’ Hopkins’ Celebrity Big Brother fee was a reported £400k plus – there were book deals and other assorted TV work.

By early 2017 she was probably one of the best paid freelance journalists in Britain. And she wasn’t even a journalist.

But there was a problem. As her notoriety grew Katie Hopkins’ increasingly outrageous pronouncements were obliged to grow with it. She flew ever closer to the Sun. She seemed increasingly chaotic and out of control and this was especially clear on Twitter, where she busied herself dog whistling to her herd of followers.

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Alan Sugar – ultimately responsible for the rise of Hopkins – in 2007

If you ride a tiger for money, you are obliged to ride it in ever more daring ways. But one day the thrill of the spectacle wears off – the crowds begin to drift away – and when you step down – you are eaten.

After the horrific suicide bombing in Manchester – that left that city shaking, this country mourning, twenty three mostly young lives lost and many dozens injured – she felt emboldened enough by the platform she had been given and the frenzy of her 800k followers to suggest that a ‘final solution’ was needed. This, finally, was the tipping point and she was dropped like a hot potato by both LBC and Mail Online.

At around the same time, Hopkins lost a costly libel case brought by food writer Jack Monroe.

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Hopkins world – an increasingly desolate planet

With options shrinking and the mortgage payments racking up, she slinked off to Rebel Media and whatever they offered her it wasn’t close to what she was getting before. Hopkins was obliged to sell her family home and was brought close to bankruptcy. But still – she didn’t stop. It only seemed to encourage her. Worse – by throwing her lot in with the far right fringes rather than taking a step back and indulging in a little mea culpa – she toxified her brand even further and it seems unlikely that she will be able to crawl back into the mainstream any time soon.

With her options dwindling and bank balance shrinking the cruise must have seemed like a financial lifeline. But all of that now is a matter of speculation because earlier this week Levant announced that it was off.

“Regrettably the cruise has been cancelled” potential passengers were informed, “the company panicked and claimed there was a security risk…… We hope to come up with another platform that cannot be sabotaged by the leftist strategy of “de-platforming” conservatives including through the Antifa tactic of violence.”

This leaves Katie Hopkins with a problem – she has burned a lot of bridges and now she is stuck on a tiny platform with Ezra Levant which I for one would not wish on anybody.

It would be very easy at this point to laugh. Heartily. But I find myself feeling well if not sorry then almost sorry for her and most certainly for her children. Hopkins – like Trump – is a product of the false reality of so called reality TV. She has been obliged to play the part so long that she has become the Monster the Series 3 producers obviously set her up to be. Her downfall is her fault – and hers alone but there is perhaps a lesson to be learned in this very 21st century morality tale of greed, hubris and not knowing when to shut up.

Series 14 contestants take note.

“People knew what they were voting for in June 2016!” – really? Do our Brexit test and find out.

  1. Can you explain in one or two sentences what the Customs Union is – and what part Britain currently plays in it?
  2. What is a common external tariff?
  3. What is the WTO and very briefly, what are WTO rules?
  4. What is the CAP? How does it work? How will British workers affected by it be better off outside?
  5. What proportion of our food is imported from the EU?
  6. What does “the single market” mean?
  7. How much – as a percentage of GDP – does membership of the EU cost the UK?
  8. What percentage of our trade overall do we conduct with the EU?
  9. True or False – the UK is a member of the Schengen agreement.
  10. Is the ECHR part of the EU? What is the ECHR?
  11. Which body decides on the design and shape of our passports?
  12. What is a Norway style deal?
  13. What is the EEA?
  14. What is EFTA?
  15. Can EU nationals be barred from entering the UK if they have a criminal record?

Answers:

1: The Customs Union removes barriers to free trade between EU countries (including the UK) by banning tariffs (taxes on imports and exports) making trade easier and keeping prices down. This benefits UK consumers as well as businesses importing and exporting to the rest of EU.

2: Imports from nations outside of the EU are subject to a common external tariff; 80% of the money raised goes to the Central EU budget. This tariff does not apply in all cases – many imports from Africa come into the EU tariff free for example.

3: The WTO is a global body that governs international trade – setting default rules. The UK is currently a member of the WTO but trades on the terms set out as part of its membership of the EU. No major economy trades solely under WTO rules. WTO rules would require exports to be inspected for conformity with EU rules on product safety and specifications. This would be a disaster for exports and the roads leading to Dover. WTO rules also mean imposing tariffs on our exports which most experts estimate to be around 8.7%. Simply defaulting to WTO rules is not a viable option for a major island based economy. But it sounds good.

4: CAP – is the Common Agricultural Policy responsible for those famed butter mountains and milk lakes caused by over-production – as well as the ‘dumping’ of cheap food on Africa causing all sorts of social and economic problems. In 1984 it made up a staggering 71% of the EEC budget but this has since been reduced to 39%. CAP currently provides £3 billion a year to British farmers – whose industry contributes just 0.7% to GDP – propping many up.

5: The UK imports around 30% of all of our food from the EU which isn’t a major problem – unless you like to eat. We in turn export 70% of our food and drink into the market – which grew by 8% in the first quarter of this year. Currently food in both directions is untaxed (tariff free) across a frictionless border.

6: The single market removes barriers to trade and sets minimum and maximum standards for goods. These standards are generally judged to be among the very best in the world and govern everything from the noise a lawnmower can make to the safety of your car. In general these terms benefit both the manufacturer and the consumer and UK manufacturers wishing to export into the EU will remain subject to them after Brexit.

7: After rebates, membership of the EU costs the UK £3.7 billion – or roughly 0.5% of all government spending (the red bit)

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The RED bit ladies and gentlemen – the RED bit

8: The EU as a whole is the UK’s largest trading partner. Exports to the EU accounted for 44% of all trade in 2017. 53% of all imports into the UK came from EU partners.

9: FALSE. The UK is not a signatory to the Schengen agreement which opened borders between EU nations. That is why you are obliged to show your passport when you go on holiday to any other EU nation (with the exception of the Republic of Ireland.) We have full control of our borders.

10: The ECHR – European Convention of Human Rights and its court The European Court of Human Rights – have nothing whatsoever to do with the EU. Both are the responsibility of the Council of Europe whose 47 members include non EU countries like Russia and Turkey.

11: Passport size and standards are set by the International Civil Aviation Authority which has nothing to do with the EU. This is why most modern passports look the same. The colour and general layout of the EU passport was harmonised in the 1980s but they are recommendations not rules. Croatia has a blue passport and the UK did not need to leave the EU to change the colour of its travel documents.

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Modern passports all look the same – EU ones can be blue

12: Norway is a member of both the EEA and EFTA (see below) Norway is a member of the single market but can pick and choose in other respects. If we went down the Norwegian route, the UK could leave the common fisheries policy and the CAP. The European Courts of Justice would no longer have jurisdiction. On the downside, the UK would still have to pay into the EU budget and while the UK would still have access to the Single Market it would have no say in the rules – rendering us a so called ‘Fax democracy.’

13: European Economic Area  (see link)

14: European Free Trade Association (see link)

15: Yes they can be denied entry and thousands often are. The UK retains full control of our borders and we are able to stop undesirables entering the country. Thousands of EU nationals are prevented from entering the UK every year. The EU’s 2004 citizenship directive states that free movement is not an unqualified right.

 

Score:

1 – 8     You’ve taken back control but you don’t have a clue what it means

8-12     Not bad – but did you really know all that in 2016?

12-15   Welcome to my blog Mr Verhofstadt

This blog follows on from an original – which you can read here if you are even half bothered

 

“People knew exactly what they were voting for!” OK – I’ve devised a little test – let’s see if it’s true.

“People knew exactly what they were voting for!”

Heard that lately? I am sure you have. If you didn’t catch Nigel Farage chipping in with it on GMB this week, then you will have heard Johnny Mercer MP say it, or Jacob Rees-Mogg or any number of MPs, MEPs, Brexit backers and twitter accounts repeat it. I’ve read it on Facebook, I’ve heard it on LBC and the BBC; I’ve seen it in letters to The Metro and been told it by Brexit backing family members and Brexit backing friends. And yet – two years on from the EU referendum currently the most Googled Brexit questions in Britain are: “what is Brexit” and “when is Brexit?”

When you consider that the governing party itself is currently in open civil war about what sort of Brexit we are going to have and what it will actually mean the idea that “people knew exactly what they were voting for” does seem to be – well – preposterous.

But surely Nigel Farage and that nice Jacob Rees-Mogg aren’t lying. They can’t have just made it up? There must be some basis of truth in the idea that ordinary Britons understood the multifaceted nature of our relationship with the EU and solemnly cast their votes carrying this weight of knowledge and the implications of leaving. I mean wasn’t simply everybody talking about the CU and the WTO for decades prior to June 2016?

My faith in both men is a matter of record on these pages and so to help prove Jacob and Nigel right I’ve devised a little test.

Fifteen fairly basic questions about the EU and our relationship (or possible) future relationship with it; get more than 60% right and you can probably quite rightly claim that you knew what you were voting for in June 2016. less than that and you should probably have stayed home with a nice mug of gin.

Let’s go:

  1. Can you explain in one or two sentences what the Customs Union is – and what part Britain currently plays in it?
  2. What is a common external tariff?
  3. What are WTO rules?
  4. What is the CAP? How does it work?
  5. What proportion of our food is imported from the EU?
  6. What does “the single market” mean?
  7. How much – as a proportion of GDP expenditure – does membership of the EU cost the UK?
  8. What percentage of our trade overall do we conduct with the EU?
  9. True or False – the UK is a member of the Schengen agreement.
  10. Is the ECHR part of the EU? What is the ECHR?
  11. Which body decides on the design and shape of our passports?
  12. What is a Norway style deal?
  13. What is the EEA?
  14. What is EFTA?
  15. Can EU nationals be barred from entering the UK if they have a criminal record?

I’ll be honest. I would probably have failed to get 60% even in 2016 and so should most definitely not have been allowed to vote on something as complex as our membership of the European Union. How did you do?

Answers here

Chief suspect in murder of the traitor Leon Trotsky comes forward to clear his name

In an exclusive interview with Pravda, Canadian national Tony Babach* chief suspect in the failing capitalist world for the murder of the traitor Leon Trotsky today denied any part in the execution of the cowardly turncoat.

“It is actually crazy!” Mr Babach tells us “can’t a guy take an ice pick on holiday to an obscure Mexican village without getting accused of murder!”

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The traitor Trotsky, who nobody had even heard of before this

Babach undertook the six week passage from the Soviet Union to Mexico ‘spontaneously’ after hearing about the ‘world famous Casa Municipal’ in the village of Coyoacán near Mexico City.

“People are saying I went under a false passport simply because I am a Canadian national with a Spanish accent who was living in Moscow!” Tony Babach adds incredulously as he sits in the Pravda office: “but all of this can be easily explained. I was visiting The USSR as a member of the Canadian lumberjack team, when I fell into conversation with a man in a bar who started raving about this incredible house in this small village in Mexico. I am an impulsive guy so I decided to go there. That evening! I had to see that Casa.”

Wearing traditional Canadian clothes and pouring maple syrup over his paella Mr Babach looks and sounds every bit the Canadian national that he says he is.

“I am very grateful to Comrade Stalin and the team at Pravda for giving me the opportunity to clear my name,” Babach continues adding spontaneously: “La Casa de Cortés is a building located on the north side of the Plaza Hidalgo. At twenty eight metres, it has served as an administrative and governmental building since it was constructed in the 18th century.”

Pressed on what else he had done during his visit and whether he had known that the collaborator Leon Trotsky, whose name will go down in infamy as a betrayer of the revolution and the people of the Soviet republics, lived there Mr Babach added: “Not at all. In fact I had never heard of him until people started blaming me for his death.”

As to the photographs that have emerged in recent days of a blood soaked Mr Babach running from Trotsky’s house with a large ice axe protruding from his pocket there is a simple explanation:

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Mexico City in October – temperatures can plummet to just 27 Celsius

“Anyone who has ever been to Mexico City can tell you about the risk of heavy snowfall in October. With temperatures plummeting to around 29 Celsius there is an ever present threat of avalanches and I wasn’t going to take chances. It is perfectly normal there. Everyone walks around with ice picks in their pockets. As for the so called ‘blood’ – well I had been eating a sausage and there was too much ketchup on it and some just went all over my shirt and shoes and face and trousers. And hands. That stuff gets everywhere! I love chorizo like any normal Canadian guy! Canada is best!”

After listening to his version of events Comrade Stalin sympathised with the wrongly accused tourist and awarded Babach an Order of Lenin adding – “if you do not believe this perfectly reasonable explanation of events, you will be considered enemies of the people and betrayers of the revolution and all be carted off to a labour camp before being shot in the head. So let’s hear no more about it.”

We are convinced. Up the reds!

* It later transpired that Mr Barbach was really Jaime Ramón Mercader del Río a Spanish national. However despite him confessing to the murder, being held at the murder scene, being found guilty of it and imprisoned for 30 years there is no firm evidence that he was responsible.

Imagine – Bungle – beat poet, icon, bear.

CREDITS: IMAGINE …… WITH ALAN YENTOB –

BUNGLE

Shot of Bungle with a couple of plastic bags smoking a fag outside The Coach and Horses in Greek Street. He’s got a large whisky. He tries to open a bag of nuts but they fly everywhere.

Bungle V/O: People say Soho isn’t the place it was. That’s true. In the Colony Rooms back in the 1960s right through to the 1980s there was a scene and you never knew who’d pop in. On any given night you might see Bacon and Freud arguing with Lisa Stansfield about art while Michael Aspel bashed out Lynard Skynyard hits on a clarinet. Or perhaps you’d catch Denis Norden chatting about civil rights with Shakin’ Stevens over a pint while Warhol or Pinter tried to butt in. The Krays, Peter Cook, Biggins, they were all there. All dead now of course. Apart from Biggins. And Norden. And Aspel. And Stansfield. She never rings. None of them do. So dead to me.

Yentob: A star of TV from the seventies until early nineties Bungle the Bear is perhaps best known for daytime children’s show Rainbow. But in the early 1960’s Bungle was a revered Beat Poet with a cult following in New York and a series of avant-garde spoken word records to his name.

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Bungle’s experimental 1993 Acid Jazz album failed to chart

Shot of Bungle in black and white footage doing Beat poetry in a New York club. Ginsberg. Dylan. They’re all there.

Bungle: People say I was a good poet. Wrong. I was a great poet. But then the acting jobs came along and eclipsed all that.

Bungle walks through Soho – people point. He doesn’t seem to notice.

Bungle: I don’t like talking about Rainbow because sure it’s what I’m remembered for but it doesn’t define me. Type casting doesn’t happen in America. Look at De Niro. Or The Kardashians. Or High Tower in the later Police Academy Series as the character developed. I remember talking to Martin Shaw about just that when I was filming an episode of The Professionals where they went to a Zoo. I played a bear.

Yentob: It was a performance as THE Bear in a National Theatre production of The Winter’s Tale that led to a call from Hollywood and a brief move there with his young family.

Bungle looking in bins

Bungle staring into the Thames

Bungle on a park bench smoking a cigarette

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Original screen test for Star Wars

Bungle: Guinness rang me one day and said there was a part for me in this thing called Star Wars and would I audition. He sounded kind of desperate. I did it more as a favour really and yes of course George Lucas loved me. Begged me to play the role of Chewbacca. It was pathetic really. I thought it was shit. People flying around in space planes… when you’ve just put something as good as Series One of Rainbow in the can you know what quality is. Also – in those days you didn’t mess with Thames TV Children – they had enforcers and Geoff Hayes would have you against a fucking wall if you just looked at him. He had a reputation if you get my drift. So I agreed to another series and then another – I’d scat – I’d throw in a lot of my beat poetry. They’d let me do conceptual art sometimes. Never actually watched it. Then one day I’m in a branch of Radio Rentals in St Albans and the show comes on and – for the first time I realise I’ve been dubbed. The fucking suits have dubbed me. That was it. I was 40 years old and I suddenly discovered that all my best work had been dubbed. A bitter blow. I sounded like a woman. And they made me do the whole thing naked. It was kind of weird. (BEAT) Hold this – I need to go and talk to someone.

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You didn’t mess with Hayes – or he’d have you against a wall

Shot of Bungle standing on top Broadcasting House shouting at passers by

Yentob: What’s he doing?

Voice: I don’t know.

Bungle is still on the roof. He’s drinking. A man dressed as a giant apple appears and starts arguing with him. A woman in a comedy waitress outfit and outsized glasses climbs onto the roof and they all start fighting. Suddenly they lose their balance and fall. Screams.

Yentob: What are we going to do we’ve only got three minutes in the can…?

Jump cut to ducks on a pond. A small boy is feeding the ducks. he looks up and sees the camera. Starts shouting: “Perverts! Perverts!”

ENDS

Death Stars, fish questionnaires and a thriving lightsabre sector: ERG unveils alternative Chequer’s plan.

Jacob Rees-Mogg and his 80 strong European Research Group have deemed Theresa May’s Chequer’s Plan “unworkable.” Here is the leaked draft of their more feasible alternative.

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A British Death Star for a British future

Death Star

Anyone who has seen the documentary series ‘Star Wars’ will be aware of the challenges facing well-intentioned ‘Empires’ wishing to reassert themselves in difficult times. As such, the ERG advocates investing the money we would otherwise send to Brussels in an enormous ‘Death Star.’ This grand project will need skilled workers, IT consultants and – crucially – give a much needed boost to innovative new ray gun and light sabre sectors. The fully costed “Death Star” policy forms a central plank of the ERG proposals. Why should the United Kingdom be tied to the failing “Planet Earth” project when there is a whole galaxy out there to trade with?

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland existed before the European Union and Northern Ireland will continue to exist after we leave – whatever the carnage that might follow. People who are worried about Northern Ireland are whimpering ‘Remoaners’ and that is all that needs to be said about that.

Fishing

In future – all fish caught in the waters of seas bordering the British Isles will be given a short interview in French, Icelandic, Norwegian and Spanish. If they can answer all 50 questions faultlessly, then they will be handed to the trawlermen of those respective nations. If not – they will be assumed to be British and taken forthwith to Grimsby or one of those other ghastly places.

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Fish who successfully pass the ‘fishing test’ will be allowed to end up in British stomachs

The Falkland Islands

No single issue preoccupies the Great British People more than the inherent wickedness of the wretched Argies and the security of the Falkland Islands. Once we have left the failing European Union there will be plenty of money to invest. While we await completion of the Death Star that will eventually eviscerate South America, the ERG recommends pumping £18 trillion into the archipelago – teaching Johnny Argie a much needed lesson. Our shipwrights will build a vast armada of dreadnoughts which will circle the islands around the clock until such time as an enormous and impenetrable steel dome can be placed on top of the South Atlantic.

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Spitting Image’s correctly rendered map of the world

The NHS/Housing

A quick poll of ERG MPs reveals that not only do none of us use the NHS but neither do our nannies. It is outrageous therefore that billions of pounds are wasted every year on this white elephant for people who are too lazy (or poor) to buy private medical insurance. Post Brexit the ERG recommends issuing every adult in the United Kingdom with a “doctor’s certificate” spontaneously making some 40 million people “doctors.” These highly qualified individuals will then be able to treat themselves and their loved ones – allowing most of the hospitals in the UK to be demolished and rebuilt as private homes – thus solving the housing crisis.

Global trade

While the UK has been enjoying hundreds of billions of pounds of failing tariff free trade with the dwindling EU we have been overlooking potentially enormous deals with Pitcairn island and parts of East Timor. In future the ERG hopes that all of our commerce will be done with these mighty nations and their burgeoning economies. We will buy their stamps and bread fruit and they will buy our light sabres. Then Mr Barnier will be sorry!

A Time Machine

The past was a simpler era, where people knew their place. The rich man lived in his castle while the poor man dwelled with dozens of horrid children, a wife who was too afraid to speak and tuberculosis. There was little need for contraceptives or labour exchanges as ‘mortality’ kept the population under control! Having perfected the Death Star technology the ERG proposes to spend whatever is left on a vast “time machine” that will take us all back to 1910. It was a golden age of cream teas, vicars and a healthy hatred of the HUN when the only black people one saw existed in prints in beautifully bound encyclopaedias and delightful ‘golliwog’ nursery tales. The summers will be endless, the great estates will flourish – and critically our young men will have the chance once more to have their horribly mutilated corpses buried in neat rows before their 21st birthdays.

God Save the King!

Boris: Why I am leaving the failing Johnson Family Project to explore global opportunities

When I was at school there was a boy called Rupert Vander-Likker who excelled at setting fire to things. ‘Likkers’ was always busy with the petrol can. First he burned down some local woodland, then he set fire to Matron’s car – (while she was in it) and finally, having achieved a little notoriety went on to his magnus opus, torching a very ugly council estate that blighted the edges of Windsor. I’m sorry to report that rather than congratulating him on his splendid efforts at regeneration, the local constabulary took rather a dim view of all this, as did the residents of Mandela drive (or whatever the ghastly place was called). Likkers was summoned before the Headmaster and given a stern warning that if he did it again he would have to pay for it all out of his own pocket money. No real harm was done of course as it was kept out of papers but Rupert, I am sorry to say, never set fire to anything again, causing all of us to lose interest in him.

Some years later news filtered through to The Beefsteak Club that Likkers had settled down with a lesbian who didn’t shave her armpits – and was making a living for himself saving starving little picaninnies in Africa. I have lived ever since by the motto: Noli esse vir Rupert. Never be like Rupert! Never settle for anything less than the magnificent chap you were at 18!

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It was not me Guv! It was that other chap.

I was reminded of Likkers earlier this year when my wife caught me with my lucky pants on my head romping with a pretty young girl, whose name escapes me – somewhere in the Cotswolds. I had really worked up quite a bit of steam and was about to yell my signature release howl of “tally ho for the Bullers!” when the door flung open to reveal the old battle axe standing there with tears streaming down her face – wholly ruining the magic of the moment. My first thought, as ever, was for myself and my second was for what this might mean for my chances of getting into Number 10.

Having extracted myself from my companion and pulled on my jogging plimsols, I found Mrs. Johnson out in the corridor making a terrible fuss about nothing.

“I can’t take this anymore!” The old harridan was wailing: “you’ve cheated on me again and again and I just can’t take it – all the lies – all the f*cking of everyone all the time!”

“Well now you know how the British people feel!” I quipped – ever with one eye on edition two of the ‘Wit and Wisdom of Boris Johnson.’ Indeed it was so good that I thought I ought to write it down and went off in search of a pencil and pad. Famously impatient, by the time I returned the old trouble and strife had gone and some weeks later the chaps at Mischon de Reya sent me a letter telling me she was filing for divorce – thus making an absolute pig’s trotter of my ambitions.

It was Tacitus who said: “In pessima republica plurimae leges”

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My lucky pants

It was Tacitus who said: “In pessima republica plurimae legis” and while the quote itself is wholly meaningless in this context, I have found that chucking Latin into my articles does make the ordinary fellow assume that I am an intellectual leviathan.

Now you might be thinking: “poor you being treated like that by the old girl just when you’ve got a proper crack at the leadership. What a shoddy woman.” Well, nothing actually could be further from the truth. You see for years I have had my doubts about the failing and unwieldy Johnson family project. It is a never ending money pit into which I have been obliged to throw a lot of cash for very little return indeed. While in its origins the marriage may have had noble intentions, frankly I signed up for a jolly good shagathon and someone to go and do the shopping. I had no idea at all that it would involve all of those babies and responsibilities and school fees and worst of all that the old todger would be put out for retirement in just a few short years.

Mrs. Johnson may now have joined the Singles Market, but I have my sights set on greater challenges. It is time to explore global opportunities and global partners. I am taking back control of my meat and two veg (wonky or not) and am going to make a jolly good fist of it. Divorce may be painful at first but I shall be able to put all the money I have wasted weekly on my marriage and invest it instead in things that really matter to the British people – my campaign to become Prime Minister.

There are some who question whether a man of dubious moral standards, who has cheated on both his wives, sired a child by another women, displayed not a jot of actual talent, offered to get a chum’s sworn enemies beaten up and been sacked for lies and incompetence should be Prime Minister. To those people I say “remember that time I was on a zipwire!” And to the little people I say: “Non est ad astra mollis e terris via.” They have no idea what it means of course, but it should placate the thick little yahoos long enough to get me what I want.

(as told to Otto English – satirical content)