The UK branch of the ice cream and frozen yoghurt firm suggested Ms Patel and her team show more “humanity”, adding: “People wouldn’t make dangerous journeys if they had any other choice.”
A Home Office official dismissed the concerns from the makers of “overpriced junk food” – and Tory party chairman James Cleverly accused Ben and Jerry’s of “statistically inaccurate virtue signalling” over the issue.
“Priti is working day and night to bring an end to these small boat crossings, which are facilitated by international criminal gangs and are rightly of serious concern to the British people,” said a Home Office source.
“If that means upsetting the social media team for a brand of overpriced junk food, then so be it.”
Foreign office minister Mr Cleverly tweeted: “Can I have a large scoop of statistically inaccurate virtue signalling with my grossly overpriced ice cream, please?”
The strange spat began when the company’s UK Twitter account posted several tweets tagging the home secretary, beginning: “Hey @PritiPatel, we think the real crisis is our lack of humanity for people fleeing war, climate change and torture.”
Condemning the government’s rhetoric, the firm added: “People cannot be illegal. And, it is enshrined in the 1951 Refugee Convention that crossing a border ‘illegally’ should not impact your asylum claim.”
Mr Cleverly appeared to take issue with the ice cream company’s claim that “the UK hasn’t resettled any refugees since March”.
Although the UK’s refugee resettlement scheme has been frozen since March, asylum seekers have been able to make a claim for family union as they arrive into the UK.
Ben and Jerry’s was founded in 1978 by best friends Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield before being sold to the multinational Unilever in 2000.
Mr Greenfield has described himself as an “ageing hippy” – telling The Independent in 2015 that he and his friend “still try to make a difference” despite having no formal role at the ice cream company.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies