LONDON (Reuters) – The British government has become embroiled in an unlikely row with ice cream maker Ben and Jerry’s over its approach to migrants arriving by boat from France, after the brand criticised ministers’ increasingly bellicose rhetoric.
More than 500 migrants have arrived on British beaches in recent days, with many fleeing poverty, persecution or war in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.
That has prompted a reaction from the government, who have asked the military to help, urged France to stop the boats at source, and even appointed a “Clandestine Channel Threat Commander” to lead efforts to prevent crossings.
A frostily worded Twitter thread from Unilever-owned <ULVR.L> Ben and Jerry’s tagged interior minister Priti Patel, and cited several media reports about the plight of those who undertake the dangerous 21-mile crossing in overloaded dinghies.
“Hey @PritiPatel we think the real crisis is our lack of humanity for people fleeing war, climate change and torture,” the brand’s UK account tweeted.
Ben & Jerry’s was acquired by Unilever in 2000 in a unique deal that allows it to operate with more autonomy than other subsidiaries.
It uses that freedom to pursue a cultural and social mission that has recently included strongly supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. It also supports marriage equality and electoral campaign finance reform.
While Patel has not directly replied to the migration thread, fellow minister James Cleverly responded: “Can I have a large scoop of statistically inaccurate virtue-signalling with my grossly overpriced ice cream please?”
He did not say what inaccuracies he was referring to. Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s were not immediately available to comment.
Some of the arrivals stand a chance of being granted asylum, while others, considered illegal economic migrants, are unlikely to be allowed to remain in Britain.
(Reporting by William James in London and Siddharth Cavale in Bengaluru; editing by Stephen Addison)