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East Anglia Future 50

Old pottery piece highlights shattering effects of 200-year-old political row which rivalled raw emotion of Brexit

PUBLISHED: 14:39 01 May 2019 | UPDATED: 14:39 01 May 2019

A plate from the time of the Corn Laws is set to go under the hammer at Sworders auctioneers at Stansted Mountfitchet  Picture: LAUREN BROWN

A plate from the time of the Corn Laws is set to go under the hammer at Sworders auctioneers at Stansted Mountfitchet Picture: LAUREN BROWN

A plate harking back nearly two centuries ago to another era of party splits and turmoil over European trade is set to go under the hammer in north Essex.

The pottery item, with a guide price of around £30 to £50, dates back to around 1840 and a long-running issue with echoes of today's Brexit crisis which split the nation and the Tory party - the protectionist Corn Laws, which imposed a tariff on imported wheat before they were repealed in 1846.

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It bears the anti-Corn Laws slogan 'our bread untaxed, our commerce free' and will be auctioned by Sworders fine art auctioneers, Stansted Mountfitchet on May 21.

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The aim of the Corn Laws was to keep grain prices high to favour domestic producers but this had the effect of raising the costs of living for urban Britain while lining the pockets of rural landowners and became the focus of political disquiet reflected in pottery ware of the times. Conservative prime minister Sir Robert Peel repealed the laws but only with the support of the Whigs, causing a political schism.

Economic historians see the repeal of the laws as a decisive shift towards free trade in Britain although it also brought a dependence on imported grain that was the ruin of British agriculture.

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