The banned and binned sarnie – Brexit means Brexit

Graphic by Sadie Parker

There’s no way around it, I am afraid. Brexit ‘succeeded’ because it was based on a toxic combo of eye-watering lies and staggering ignorance – most of which is still on display in the government right now.

Hamsandwichgate is a classic example of (wilful) ignorance. We left the EU. We are now a third country. As such, we are subject to the rules imposed on any third country. These include the importation of foodstuffs. This is how it works! We will be applying the same rules if and when we ever get our act (and resources) together so to do.

You try getting into Australia or Canada with a ham sarnie. You’ll be in for a pretty scary experience. I remember standing in a customs queue in Sydney, terrified that I might still have something as seemingly innocent as an apple in my luggage somewhere. People found with foodstuffs were taken aside and their illegal substances ostentatiously binned and cash fines imposed on the spot. Bye, bye holiday spending money! But those are the rules. End of.

Take a look at the detail of how it works in Australia and Canada, if you’re interested. It’s a serious matter and the fines are meaningfully painful.

Brexiters are trying to spin the ham sandwich incident as the petty, bureaucratic and vengeful EU exerting its power at our expense, but our government knew – or at least, its civil servants knew – that this was one of the very many costs of Brexit.

The ban on importing food containing animal products came into force on New Year’s Day when the Brexit transition period came to an end. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) spelled it out , telling travellers they should “use, consume, or dispose of” prohibited items at or before the border.

“From 1 January 2021 you will not be able to bring POAO (products of an animal origin) such as those containing meat or dairy (eg a ham and cheese sandwich) into the EU,” the Defra guidance for commercial drivers states.

This government’s cavalier, swash-bucking attitude to rules, regulations and the law is not shared by our trading partners and it does not advantage us one jot to believe we can do what we want and get away with it.

There is a rumour circulating that Johnson has been meeting with industry leaders, begging them to cite some rules and regulations that he can scrap to demonstrate the ‘Brexit dividend’. Unsurprisingly, these pleas have been ignored and rebuffed. Why would business want to sabotage its prospects any further by disqualifying themselves from the trade left after the Brexit red tape bonanza? No! They want alignment. They want a level playing field and to apply standards and rules that the UK helped to design and develop while we were in the EU.*

Oh, and it really is clutching at straws to ‘celebrate’ UK drivers caught on camera in the EU breaking road traffic rules being able to get away without fines. Is that really a ‘dividend’ to crow about? Is that who we are? Rule-breakers?

We have to stop this ridiculous pantomime and face facts. Blame the liars who missold Brexit, not the EU who are merely applying the rules. There’s no discretion in a rules-based system, something we may well come to appreciate the hard way. We deserve and should demand something better than this government’s ‘one rule for us, another for you’ approach and we deserve the truth on everything – including sandwiches.

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