Undeterred by the dangers of using boats for publicity stunts, illustrated last year by Bob Geldof in the lead-up to the EU Referendum, a group of pro-Brexit MPS have “launched” a boat carrying a copy of Article 50 that was delivered to Brussels.
Michael Gove smashed a bottle across the vessel to christen it, as part of The Sun On Sunday’s stunt that saw the boat sail from Westminster down the Thames in its mission to deliver a giant placard of the article to the European Commission’s headquarters.
Eight months after the referendum, the real Article 50 remains unsent, as the Government lost a court case that forced them to give parliament a vote on it.
The House of Lords will vote on it this week and may send it back to the House of Commons with amendments.
The last Brexit water-based event was in June - when a group of pro-Remain boats sailed in London to take on a pro-Brexit flotilla in what was called The Battle Of The Thames.
Its main contribution to the debate was the image of Bob Geldof giving Nigel Farage the finger.
The Sun On Sunday event was much more cordial. Gove was joined by Labour and Tory MPs, including Tim Loughton, who wore a Nelson-style admiral’s hat and looked through a telescope.
“God bless her and all who sail on her,” said Gove before smashing the bottle on the luxury ship’s stern.
But the spectacle left some underwhelmed and Gove’s facial expression when the champagne bottle smashed left many amused.
The ship then sailed down the Thames, with the crew singing: “We are sailing, the EU is failing.”
In its writeup of the stunt, The Sun On Sunday was at pains to point out the champagne Gove used was British.
“We sidestepped the dithering House of Lords to serve Eurocrats with Article 50, which triggers the Brexit process,” it wrote.
“Cheering MPs boarded HMS Global Britain at Westminster before waving off our message on a 200-mile voyage to the heart of the EU.”
MPs “raised a salute” when they reached the spot of the battle last year, the paper said.
The HMS Global Britain is actually called The Edwardian, a fact apparently photoshopped out of the Sun On Sunday’s picture of the champagne smashing.
The Guardian’s Peter Walker looked up details of the boat and found it had been built in 1985 by none other than Sir Richard Branson, who was emphatically pro-Remain during the Brexit campaign.
Loughton told The Sun On Sunday: “Let’s hope the Lords get the message that the tide has turned against outdated bloated bureaucracies like the EU and they don’t try to beach the Article 50 Bill.”
Theresa May has set a deadline of March 31 for sending the actual Article 50.