That the bar for allowing people to stand for Parliament is not very high is something that will be familiar to those who look in regularly on Zelo Street, and especially when it comes to the Tory Party: Dominic Raab, Priti Patel, James “not so” Cleverly, Nadine Dorries, Chris Grayling, Bernard Jenkin - the assembled idiocy is substantial. Added to this list now is Anne-Marie Trevelyan, who represents the unfortunate voters of Berwick-upon-Tweed.
Ms Trevelyan has seen something that looks too good to be true, and which really is too good to be true for Brexiteers such as Herself. But such is her enthusiasm for the cause that she has believed it anyway, telling anyone who will listen “There's now a US-UK trade deal ready to be signed says @BrexitCentral”. There isn’t. There really isn’t.
So what is there? Ah well. The anti-EU right has been acting in concert, with lobby groups (let’s not favour these with titles like “think tanks”) and propagandists attempting to turn their spin into reality. Eleven like-minded lobby groups have put together what they would like to see in a trade agreement, and then declared that it really is a trade agreement.
However, and here we encounter a significantly-sized however, one look at the roll-call of those lobby groups tells you what to expect in the alleged agreement. From the UK, there are the ASI, CPS and IEA, and from the USA, the AEI and Cato Institute. The convocation of flat earthers could not be more complete. So what’s on offer?
According to the Guardian, the agreement “would see the NHS opened to foreign competition, a bonfire of consumer and environmental regulations and freedom of movement between the two countries for workers”. Freedom of movement between the UK, with a population of 66 million people, and the USA, with 326 million. As Private Eye magazine might have mused, I wonder who that might favour? I think we should be told.
One look at the kinds of details on offer tells you exactly who it might favour: it “would remove tariffs and throw out the precautionary principle that has guided much EU regulation on GM foods, chlorine-washed chicken, hormones in meat, pesticides and chemicals in cosmetics”. Removing EU regulations and imposing US ones instead.
That this would be a sell-out to US business, and especially Agri-Business, was only confirmed by the news that “Liam Fox is planning to use controversial ‘Henry VIII’ powers to scrap European food standards in order to pave the way for a trade deal with the US after Brexit … Fox believes the UK should diverge from EU rules after Brexit in order to sign wide-ranging free trade deals with countries with lower standards”. Oh goody.
What other delights would be on offer? “The IFT/Cato Institute free trade deal recognises that its proposals are likely to be unpopular. ‘Health services would benefit from foreign competition, although we recognise any change to existing regulations would be extremely controversial,’ it says … It recommends testing the waters with foreign competition in education and legal services first”. Screwing around with education, just for starters.
One commentator who has seen them coming has no doubt what the alleged “agreement” would mean. “Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, said: ‘The measures supported in this paper represent a free trade utopia, entirely divorced from economic reality. The authors view good government as “getting out of the way” of business, and letting profit drive every aspect of our society. If carried out, these policies would destroy huge swathes of our economy, including farming, and they would lay waste to public services.’” And we have Tory MPs willing to shill for it.
The idea that this “deal” is ready for signature is below the credibility threshold. It would sell out our farmers, sell off the NHS and most likely replace it with a cripplingly expensive US-style insurance-based health care system, and effectively convert the UK, at a stroke, into just another US state. And its proponents talk about freedom and independence.
The IEA, CPS and ASI are not credible trade negotiators. The ritual incantation of soundbites such as “free trade”, as on a tape loop, should convince no-one. And Liam Fox is still a disgraced ex-minister who cannot be trusted any further than he can be chucked.
A UK-US “trade deal” does not exist. Don’t fall for this attempt to sell out the UK.
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