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Breaking Bread Over Brexit With Fish in Brussels, a Short Story

European hosts offered the British Prime Minister scallops, turbot, and pavlova as they broke bread at the Berlaymont over Brexit in Brussels

Big Mouth Boris Bass and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen
Big Mouth Boris Bass and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen
Aaron Chown - WPA Pool/Getty Images/Eater London

Last night, Prime Minister Boris Johnson raced across to the Belgian capital Brussels for “crucial”, last minute talks and dinner with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen. It was shoe-horned into each leader’s schedules as Britain and the EU attempt to reach agreement on a future trading relationship after the U.K. formally and finally leaves the bloc next month. For those wondering, yes, this is/ought to be the last and truest of the many Brexits to have ‘happened’ since the referendum of 2016.

So, both parties have had four and a half years but have left themselves just three weeks to fully avoid an historic shitshow. Yet all hope is not lost; they’re still talking, still saying that a deal is possible but, following last night’s meeting, separately announcing that “very large gaps remain” between what each wants. Crucially, they’re still breaking bread.

With thanks to the Guardian, here’s what they ate last night behind closed doors inside the Berlaymont building — headquarters of the European Commission.


—Pumpkin soup and scallops—

Main course

—Turbot, mashed potatoes, wasabi, and vegetables—


—Pavlova with fruit and coconut sorbet—

It’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that the EU was trolling Johnson, deciding to lean into the marine delights of European waters, since the “ownership” of Britain’s fishing waters has been one of the most powerfully symbolic and contentious issues throughout the entire Brexit process.

Most recently, according to the Guardian, “British and French fishermen have clashed over access rights to...... scallop beds in the Baie de Seine, off the coast of Normandy in northern France. No deal on fishing could lead to skirmishes on the seas similar to the 2018 ‘scallop wars’.” Turbot, alas, the British are a little more relaxed about.

Nevertheless, there has so far been a failure to reach agreement on the degree of access EU boats will have to the seas within the U.K.’s 200 (nautical)-mile “exclusive economic zone”. It is perhaps inevitable that it’s come down to this: Ever since the Brexit referendum campaign, Johnson and fellow fish-loving Brexiters have spoken of the importance of British (not European) fisherman having priority access to British waters; for Britain to finally extricate itself from the common fisheries policy.

Because of this, Johnson has developed a love for a fishy prop. When this leader isn’t wearing a hard hat, he’s probably holding a fish.

Below, on the campaign trail last year, admiring a cod at Grimsby Fish Market.

Boris Johnson Visits North East In Campaign’s Final Days Photo by Ben Stansall – WPA Pool/Getty Images

And, holding a vacc-packed kipper at a speech during the Conservative Party leadership contest last summer.

Boris Johnson waves a smoked kipper around on stage as part of Conservative Leadership Hustings against Jeremy Hunt, both men vying to be Prime Minister Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

The two parties are reportedly close to a deal on fish, even if a wider trading arrangement is still some way off.

More soon.