Black yeast extract is the latest victim of Brexit in the United Kingdom. USA TODAY
British staple Marmite.(Photo: AFP)
A concentrated black yeast extract that many Britons spread on toast became the latest front Thursday in the United Kingdom's ongoing acrimonious debate about the country's decision to leave the European Union.
Supermarket giant Tesco stopped selling jars of Marmite, PG Tips tea and other staples of the British diet online amid a pricing dispute with Unilever, the massive British-Dutch conglomerate.
Unilever, the supplier of the goods, wanted to increase its wholesale prices by as much as 10% because the British pound has plummeted against the dollar and the euro since a little over half of the population voted in June to exit the EU.
Much of that fall has been attributed to concern from investors who are not certain what the withdrawal could mean for the U.K.'s access to the EU's single market — a trading alliance that guarantees the free movement of goods, capital, services and people across the EU's 28 member states and 500 million citizens.
Unilever announced Thursday that the dispute with Tesco was resolved, but the issue points out how daily life in Britain could be affected by leaving the EU.
Many of Unilever's products for the British market are made outside of the country. The company says a weaker pound has hurt its profit margins. The pricing argument left many shelves in Tesco stores across the U.K. running low on Marmite as shoppers rushed to acquire a product that Britons have long had a love-hate relationship with.
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Indeed, Unilever has even marketed it under an ad campaign of "Love it or Hate it."
Marmite has a pungent odor and the yeast comes from beer residue. Many consumers find its powerful salty taste completely inedible while others consider it to be a quintessential and distinctive part of the British taste bud.
A survey on Marmite by YouGov, an online research firm, found that 33% of Britons "love it" and 33% "hate it." The rest expressed no preference.
Many social media users pointed out Thursday that the breakdown was not dissimilar to those who voted for and against Brexit — a British exit from the EU.
"A divided country over #Brexit is now equally divided over #Marmite," wrote George Dokimakis on Twitter. "Half the population are happy and the other half in panic #Marmitegate." Emma Kennedy, another Twitter user, wrote: "If Brexit means no more Marmite, there will be riots in the streets (but only from half the population)."
Brexit's supporters view it as an opportunity to reduce immigration and retain more control over laws that directly affect Britons. Its opponents argue that leaving the EU will reduce the U.K.'s geopolitical standing, harm its economy and lead to the overhauling of important and longstanding social welfare legislation.
More than 30 million people voted in the EU referendum. It passed 52% to 48%. Prime Minister Theresa May has vowed to start the formal withdrawal process by spring next year. Separately, the High Court in London began considering a case Thursday on whether the British government has the authority to trigger the exit process — known as Article 50 — without getting approval from Parliament.
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