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Controversial 50p Brexit Coin Proposal Stirring Up Trouble in the UK

Cartoonists Ben Jennings drew several conceptual takes on the Brexit coin, including one depicting a seated Britannia, the personification of Great Britain historically seen on the reverse of the 50p coin, shooting herself in the foot with a rifle.

By Joshua McMorrow-Hernandez for CoinWeek …..

UK officials plan to flood the British Isles with 50p coins commemorating the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union—popularly known as Brexit. Slated to occur on October 31, 2019, Brexit comes after several frustrating delays due to the failure of the British government to come to any agreement with the EU about how to proceed. The conflict even caused Prime Minister Theresa May to resign following her inability to gain parliamentary support for her Brexit plans.

The heptagonal 50p Brexit coins meant to commemorate the historic event were originally proposed by former Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, who in October 2018 planned on striking a limited run of 10,000 numismatic examples of the commemorative for coin collectors at a price of £10 (over $12 USD) apiece. A few prototypes were made in anticipation of a March 29, 2019 Brexit, but delays in the nation’s departure plan waylaid the production of further coins. Hammond resigned in July 2019 following the election of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who supports a no-deal Brexit – something Hammond could not support. In his place now is Chancellor Sajid Javid, a former banker who rose through the British political ranks and previously served as Secretary for Culture, Media and Sport, among other positions.

Chancellor Javid is a staunch supporter of a no-deal Brexit, saying the economy will only become “stronger” after Britain severs formal ties with the EU bloc. He plans on heralding Britain’s departure from the EU with millions of circulating 50p Brexit commemorative coins. The coins, to be inscribed with the words PEACE, PROSPERITY AND FRIENDSHIP WITH ALL NATIONS, will essentially serve as a de facto endorsement that the Treasury backs the no-deal Brexit.

There’s precedent for such commemorative coins, including a 1973 50p coin celebrating the UK’s admission to the European Economic Community and a 1998 50p coin honoring the UK’s position as president of the EU. When released many years ago, these pieces were quite popular with collectors and enjoy decent support in the secondary market today, with Uncirculated and Proof examples of each generally selling in the $5 to $10 range.

As summer winds down into autumn, Chancellor Javid is working with Royal Mint officials to ensure large volumes of the 50p Brexit commemorative can be released in time for Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.

But the 50p coin still has two hurdles to climb.

The first is a little royal red tape: members of the Queen’s Privy Council must sign off on the coin but aren’t slated to meet again until October.

The other obstacle may be less procedural but is much more daunting: getting the public to support the coin. No, a public democratic vote in favor of the coin isn’t at all required for its minting. But it seems relatively few Britons like the idea of a 50p coin honoring a no-deal Brexit.

The Brexit 50p coin is being derided by cartoonists such as Ben Jennings , who drew several conceptual takes on the coin, including one depicting a seated Britannia, the personification of Great Britain historically seen on the reverse of the 50p coin, shooting herself in the foot with a rifle. Commentator Chris Key wrote in The Independent that the 50p coins are a “waste of money” and will “have even less value if we have a no-deal Brexit.” He goes on to say that “the notion of peace and friendship with all nations is hypocritical and astonishing, given the repeated warmongering narratives of Brexiteers.”

Some of these so-called “Brexiteers” that Key references include parliamentary and other government leaders threatening food shortages in nations demanding British trade compromises with the EU. Other leaders even vow to sink EU-sanctioned ships that enter certain restricted zones in British waterways. These concerns, along with more practical worries like new and immediate tariffs that will be slapped on goods traded between Britain and EU nations, have many people wondering if a shiny new coin heralding Britain’s departure from the bloc is appropriate amid what many believe will be inevitable economic turmoil. One Twitter user under the assumed handle Parody Boris Johnson  tweeted “Very excited to announce that we will also be producing millions of Brexit Wheelbarrows, to make it easy for people to carry enough 50p coins to buy a loaf of bread after 31 Oct.”


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