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Boris Johnson in Prosecco spat over Brexit

The UK foreign secretary has been ridiculed by an Italian minister after he suggested that Italy would sell less Prosecco if the European Union did not allow Britain to remain in the single market.

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson

Italian minister, Carlo Calenda, a former Italian envoy to Brussels, accused Johnson of “insulting” his country by intimating that the country should back his vision of Brexit, whereby free movement of people is restricted but the UK remains in the single market, or risk losing sales of Prosecco.

In retort, Calenda said the UK would miss out on some “fish and chips exports” under the foreign secretary’s approach to Brexit, which was perhaps an odd example to have picked upon given that fish and chips are rarely exported in the traditional sense from the UK.

As reported by The Telegraph, Calenda said: “He [Johnson] basically said, ‘I don’t want free movement of people but I want the single market’. “I said, ‘no way.’ He said, ‘you’ll sell less Prosecco’. I said, ‘OK, you’ll sell less fish and chips, but I’ll sell less Prosecco to one country and you’ll sell less to 27 countries. Putting things on this level is a bit insulting.”

Whitehall sources have since insisted that the comment about Prosecco had not been an insult but part of a “constructive” conversation, and that the UK would seek to maintain its trading relations with the country post-Brexit.”The foreign secretary’s comments reflect the strength of the trading relationship between the UK and Italy,” a Foreign Office spokeswoman said.

“We’re looking to ensure this continues as we depart the EU.”UK sales of Prosecco overtook those of Champagne for the first time in 2013, with the Italian sparkler shifting 307 million bottles globally compared with Champagne at 304 million bottles.

Earlier this year Vinexpo CEO Guillaume Deglise named sparkling wine as the “hottest category in the world”, with the category’s popularity expected to drive a 1.8% increase in UK wine consumption from 2015 to 2019, tracking above the global average of 1.4%.

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