Tory Brexiteers and a number of right-wing US organisations – both with access to the upper echelons of their governments – have teamed up to produce a UK/US trade deal blueprint that proposes a regulations bonfire and the opening up of the NHS to foreign competition.
Unite said the plans – released amidst a push by Conservative hardliners to achieve a hard exit from the EU – were “terrifying” and demonstrated the dangers of allowing a Tory Brexit to succeed.
The blueprint, jointly produced by the Initiative for Free Trade (IFT) and the Cato Institute, calls for environmental and consumer regulations to scrapped, freedom of movement between the UK and US and for foreign companies to be allowed to bid for NHS services.
IFT is a think tank founded by arch-Brexiteer and Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan, while the Cato Institute think tank is one of a number of right-wing libertarian organisations funded by the Koch Brothers – prominent supporters of the extremist “Tea Party” movement.
The plans were drawn up in consultation with other conservative think tanks in both the US and UK whose funding is often opaque.
These include the UK’s Institute for Economic Affairs – which is under investigation following allegations that it offered American donors access to UK ministers – and the Adam Smith Institute, as well as the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in the US.
Nearly all the organisations involved have links to high offices in the UK and the US, with government records showing that the report’s researchers in the UK have had “exceptional access” to former Brexit minister David Davis, international trade minister Liam Fox and other Tory ministers.
Fox has also spoken multiple times at the AEI and the Heritage Foundation, a number of whose staff and policies have been taken up by the Trump administration.
The blueprint says it details the “ideal UK-US free trade deal”, one that would be “more liberalising than any other free trade agreement in the world”.
The deal would entail ending tariffs, loosen oversight of multinational corporations and pave the way for downgrading regulations on pesticides, hormones in meat, chlorinated chicken, GM foods and chemicals in cosmetics.
The IFT/Cato report also acknowledges that some of its proposals would be met with outrage, stating that “health services would benefit from foreign competition, although we recognise any change to existing regulations would be extremely controversial”.
Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said the UK/US trade deal envisaged by the IFT and the Cato Institute and their Tory supporters was “frankly terrifying”.
He said, “These plans are what lie beneath the jingoistic patriotism of those in the Tory party who are set on a hard Brexit. Their sycophantic ‘Make Britain Great Again’ ideology cares nothing for the people of this country but is all about unleashing laissez faire capitalism on steroids. Workers’ rights, environmental rights, healthcare rights, consumer rights – they’re all wrong according to the Brexiteers.
“If they get their way we would see the NHS destroyed from the inside, our labour market become even more dominated by low paid insecure work, our food and environmental standards plummet and our economy repurposed to even better serve the interests of the super rich. Quite frankly, it’s a terrifying prospect, which is why we are fighting to achieve a Brexit that works for working people.”