Hard-Brexit Lobbyists Demand UK Roll-Back Environmental Standards to Strike Free Trade Deals with India, China and US

Yves here. It should come as no surprise that Brexit boosters are keen to cut environmental and labour regulations. They relish the idea of the post-Brexit UK as a sort of tooth and claw “free markets” paradise where ordinary people get even less of the pie than they do now. What they are likely to get is the sort of disorder experienced during the collapse of the USSR, which facilitated a plutocratic land grab as the life expectancy of men fell an astonishing four years.

And if nothing else, UK citizens can look forward to adding chlorinated chicken to their diet.

By Chloe Farand. Originally published at DesmogUK

Hardline Brexiters are calling on the UK government to cut EU environmental regulations to secure free-trade deals with the US, China and India after Brexit. Environmental NGOs said the plans were not credible if the UK was to fulfil its own environmental commitments, warning that the Brexit vote was not a mandate to lower standards.

The alternative Brexit plan, which is backed by former Brexit secretary David Davis and former foreign secretary Boris Johnson and was published today by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), claims that if the UK continues to strengthen its regulatory environment, it will lead to “wealth destruction” and will “push people into poverty”.

The report slams the EU as saddling the UK with regulations that are “damaging to growth” and singles out environmental protection rules as one of the areas where EU regulation is “moving in an anti-competitive direction”.

It argues that if the UK harmonises its regulatory environment with the EU’s after Brexit, it would make independent trade deals with countries such as the US, China and India impossible.

The plan was produced by Shanker Singham, director of international trade and competition unit at the IEA. A former lobbyist in the US, Singham is now one of the most powerful people pushing for a hard Brexit inside Westminster.

The IEA is a free-market think-tank working out of 55 Tufton Street, a hub for right-leaning organisations which include the climate science deniers group the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF).

The IEA and the GWPF are among nine organisations which have been accused of mounting a coordinated campaign to push for a hard-Brexit while promoting a deregulation agenda.

The 147-page report entitled “Plan A+: Creating a prosperous post-Brexit UK”, aims to offer an alternative plan to Theresa May’s Chequers Plan, which was rejected by the the EU at the Salzburg summit last week.

The IEA recommends the UK government seeks free-trade deals with countries outside of the EU as leverage to force the bloc to give Britain a better trade deal when it leaves the EU next March.

Cutting Environmental Regulation

On the environment, the authors of the alternative Brexit plan claim to be “supportive of environmental protection” but that environmental regulations “lead to increases in costs for many companies”.

They add that while environmental regulations are “sometimes valid attempts to deal with real environmental problems”, “frequently they are disguised methods of protectionism”.

Environmental campaign groups have previously warned of a “significant risk” that British environmental protections will be reduced after Brexit, despite the UK government stating otherwise.

Existing EU regulatory provisions include some of the world’s highest environmental standards on matters such as protecting natural habitat, air and water quality, waste disposal and regulation on toxic chemicals.

Donal McCarthy, senior policy officer at the RSBP, told DeSmog UK that from an environmental perspective, the IEA’s plans were not credible and were not supported by existing evidence.

“The report relies on a number of outdated and highly discredited assumptions that environmental standards are a barrier to trade. When considering the protection of wildlife for instance, it is essential that these rules are not removed,” he said.

His comments were echoed by David Powell, head of environment and green transition at the New Economics Foundation, who added that the public had not voted for Brexit to see a lowering on food and environmental standards.

“Environmental regulation has driven competitiveness, investment and innovation around the world,” he said, giving the example of the rapidly falling cost of renewable energy.

“There is also an extraordinary public opposition to the threat of chlorinated chickens founding their way onto UK shelves,” he added, citing a study by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) which found that less than 15 percent of UK voters want to see a relaxing of EU standards after Brexit.

McCarthy added that while reviews of existing legislation demonstrated that EU rules on the environment were fit for purpose, the emphasis should beon how these rules are implemented.

Pointing to the UK’s own domestic commitments such as the 25 Year Environment Plan, he added that “it is vital that the UKcontinues to cooperate with the EU on environmental issues” and that the government reassures stakeholders that it is committed to high standards.

Brexit Lobbyists: Shanker Singham and the IEA

The IEA, which is registered as an educational charity, has repeatedly made the case for cutting red-tape in order to allow a US-UK free trade deal.

In a comment piece for the Times, the IEA’s director general Mark Littlewood, summarised the alternative Brexit plan as a call to align the UK’s regulatory environment with countries that may have lower standards in order to strike trade deals.

In his words: “To over-simplify, trade talks essentially come down to sitting across a table, brandishing your regulatory rulebook and then seeing what you can agree to alter, remove or align to have a smoother trading relationship with the other side before you leave the room.”

In a disclaimer published in the alternative Brexit plan, the IEA states that it takes no corporate views on any specific policy matter nor does it take views from politicians involved in determining the Brexit process.

Instead, it admits that its recommendations “may be that one particular course of action has political or electoral implications for a specific politician or political party, but this is a matter of indifference for the institute [IEA]”. ”

The IEA made headlines earlier this summer after an undercover investigation by Greenpeace’s investigation unit Unearthed and the Guardian suggested the think tank was involved in a “cash for access” system and offered potential US donors with agri-business interests access to UK ministers.

Undercover recordings showed IEA director Littlewood claiming that Singham and his team speak with environment minister Michael Gove “every three or four days, along with David Davis, Boris Johnson, Liam Fox”. The IEA denied the allegation.

Singham joined the IEA in March this year after having worked for the Legatum Institute notoriously dubbed the “Brexiters favourite think tank”.

The IEA is also one of 11 libertarian trans-Atlantic organisations lobbying for Brexit and spreading disinformation about climate change involved in shadow trade talks in Washington and London to “hash out an ‘ideal’ US-UK free trade agreement”.

The plan, which is led by Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan who runs the Initiative for Free Trade (IFT), aims to create a “blueprint” for future negotiations between the British and US governments.

Despite his connections with the networks of organisations working out of 55 Tufton Street, environmental minister Gove has repeatedly said he would oppose any lowering of food and environmental standards post Brexit.

Last week, Fox was forced to deny reports by Business Insider that he was working to scrap EU food standards in order to strike a post-Brexit deal with the Trump administration.

Writing on Twitter, Fox described the reports to be “completely untrue and “fake news”, adding: “I have consistently said that there will be no lowering of UK food standards.”

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  1. Colonel Smithers

    Thank you, Yves.

    Just in case anyone assumes that Mark Littlewood is a Tory, he isn’t. For most of the noughties he was a Liberal Democrat official, part of the gang behind the scenes that organised the coup against Charles Kennedy, using some sock puppets who were apparently upset by Kennedy’s drinking, and paved the way for the Orange Book Liberals, led by former Tory Nick Clegg and fellow Oxford alumnus, to take over and eventually form the ConDem (conned ’em) coalition that cemented the road to Brexit.

    1. Clive

      Ah, yes, it shows how abysmal things are these days that we can wistfully hark back to the halcyon days of the ConDemNation and look at it as a step up.

      And of course it was the suicide pact which was the Yellow Peril’s coalition agreement that rendered them unelectable for a generation and paved the way for Cameron and his delightful In-Out Referendum.

      Who knew that Clegg’s third way would be the road to a sellout?

      1. Colonel Smithers

        Thank you, Clive.

        I will use your ConDemNation.

        One hopes the Yellow Peril are condemned to opposition for a generation.

        Last week, it was amusing to hear Vince Cable compare going into coalition with Corbyn as going into coalition with Farage. Cable is overrated and quite cynical for a politician. I worked with his ministry on trade finance matters in 2010 – 11 and wondered what the fuss was about and recalled his pupil Andrew Neil’s comments about lectures at Glasgow University.

        The other observation from that time was how well the Oxford and public school boys got on. It was as if party labels were less relevant than school, college and regimental ties and fox hunts.

    2. Christopher Dale Rogers

      CS, Clive & Yves,

      As CS correctly states, these bonkers neoliberal extremists are not Tories, they are though examples of that species known as Totalitarian Centrists who regrettably infest all three UK legacy parties. The good news though, for anyone who has paid attention to the Labour party annual Conference in Liverpool, UK and the many discussions going on at this Conference, we are witnessing a new Zeitgeist, one that opposes the neoliberal economic prescriptions of the past 40 years and opposes wanton warmongering – these nutters can make as many recommendations as they like to the deluded, but, one thing is for sure, neoliberalism days are over with or without a UK Brexit.

      Maybe Vlade can chip in, I know he has issues with Labour & Corbyn, but the Movement is now capturing a specific feeling of not only wanting meaningful change, but being close to achieving it. Brexit won’t change this fact, although I’m sure our EU peers would prefer a Corbyn-led Labour government taking charge, rather than the hackneyed Tories who’s final days are fast counting down.

      1. vlade

        In general, I like a number of policies suggested on the Lab conf, altough I believe they need to be thought out more. The employee equity is a good example. I like the idea, but things like the cap on the dividend mean that for a number of companies it will be more of a “treasury equity”, not employee (i.e. a majority of the dividend paid on the equity would go to the Treasury, not the employees nominally owning the equity).

        I still have an issue around Brexit – and the confused message around “no to remain, yes to remain” just confirms it. I believe that Labour leadership really massively discounts no-deal, crash-out Brexit (which is where we’re heading) both in terms of effort to keep things going (if it ends up in election) – or rather not going down the sink entirely, as well as in the “they have no other place to go” in terms of votes. On the second point, I believe that any GE right now would likely increase UKIP share (although might not translate into MPs), increase SNP share (even in MPs), and possibly increase LibDem share (a number of former LibDem voters voted Labour in 2017, but would not do so again) – but Tories and Labour ending neck-to-neck w/o any of them having a majority.

        I’ll be gladly shown wrong, but so far I haven’t really seen anything that would persuade me to change my mind on it.

        Becasue if I’m right, then the no-deal Brexit will mean not just Tories splitting up, but Labour too. I suspect that a chunk of potential Labour voters will run to extreme right parties instead of Corbyn’s splinter – because that’s how it tends to work in chaos. With that, chances of any resonable reforms anytime soon will evaporate, and it will get worse before it get better.

        1. Christopher Dale Rogers


          No issues, and will be good to catch, I’ll appraise you of an interesting central banking gathering being hosted in London in early July – indeed, if Yves is up to a London jaunt and another NC London gathering, we’ll get her along too if possible.

        2. Christopher Dale Rogers


          To be honest, a lot of the membership is confused by our stance on the EU, although JC in his speech today made clear an extension to A50 is required if Labour managed to take office before Brexit is fact.

          As for other critiques, myself and many others are keen on critiques being answered by the Shadow Chancellor and his economic advisors, indeed, many are of the opinion that the Party must produce a very strong fiscal and tax environment for SMEs, alas, the Brexit stuff makes such planning hard.

          On a positive note, the Party leadership is listening and the members are at least getting a hear in from the leadership, which did not exist in May 2015, and many of said membership actually happen to be either professionals or persons well acquainted with running SMEs.

          Of course we have all the social issues and toxic immigration environment that screws persons like myself, but hope now exists. So, its great persons with an interest in the UK actually question the leadership of all three legacy parties, offer some ideas and hopefully challenge the prevailing neoliberal economic orthodoxy.

          As ever, and regardless of some policy differences we may have, this person always recommends Naked Capitalism as a must read Blog on all social media he uses and encourage all to read the comments that are some of the best around, these include your valuable input – I wish I too could comment more, particularly on ecology related issues, but the reality is its difficult to be an activist focused on getting a Labour government in power, and sharing knowledge elsewhere – some great stuff is planned, which hopefully will appear on this Blog if Yves is willing.

  2. Skip Intro

    Wow I hadn’t even seen brexit through the lens of the standard neoliberal playbook of crapify then privatise. Now the massive unreadiness of the UK to handle all the trade negotiations necessary is revealed as the tactic to allow private organisations to simply supply the trade deals. Behind the scenes, lobbying groups and think tanks are scrambling to write the regulations that they will deliver to the government for rubber stamp during the ‘shock therapy’ period.

    Connoisseurs of disaster capitalism, stay tuned… from a safe distance.

    1. paul

      I think I have been saying over the last few weeks, that is now clear that the year zero types see hard brexit as a means, not an end.

      The EU withdrawal bill is crafted to gut the devolution settlements within the UK.

      The chaos ensuing will enable the looting.

      They have never given a fuck about ‘the nation’, just their harry potter view of life.

      Muggles can go and get buried.

      They are certainly planning ahead while looking backwards.

      1. Clive

        Agreed. Brexit disproportionately impacts the devolved regions more than it does England because the implementation of EU Directives brought additonal competencies and sovereignty to them. No EU, no Directives for the devolved administrations to implement. A Brexit feature, not a bug.

        However, the EU’s red lines would, in the absence of a sitting Stormont, require the re-imposition of Direct Rule by the U.K. government in Northern Ireland to implement them. The competency to implement EU Directives would need to be reclaimed by Westminster. There’s no provisions in the Good Friday Agreement for selective — you might call it “cherry picking” — devolvement (or un-devolvement) of the powers of the former Northern Ireland Office which were handed to the Northern Ireland Executive on the ratification of the Good Friday Agreement (absent new primary legislation in the U.K. and an agreed variation of the Good Friday Agreement which would require the consent of all parties to it).

        If this wasn’t forthcoming, at the very least this would require the suspension of the Good Friday Agreement. Once suspended (which would require all participants to concur for it to be an agreed suspension; anything else is a Treaty infraction by U.K. government were it to act unilaterally) it’s hard to see circumstances where everyone would ever agree to unsuspend it again. No more Border Poll provisions and no way to progress to a United Ireland.

        The DUP must be cockahoop. But they couldn’t have done it without Sinn Féin’s — admittedly unwitting — help in collapsing power sharing.

  3. JTMcPhee

    Interesting that while these people are busy killing the rest of us and taking our stuff, we are so distracted that we can’t get lined up to engage in some self-defense. “Stand your ground” has a lot of meanings. But then it’s a Blob, and if you cauterize one little part of it, there’s a dozen of these scumbags lining up to fill in the wound, and a lot of smarties who keep their heads below the parapet of the trench while urging their oh-so-willing, “It’s gonna make me RICH” and credentialed troops to “go over the top…”

    Like one of today’s links (I think) leads one to, the conclusion is that it is a “system,” not individuals, that lead to this. And what kind of “system” can us mopes develop to counter it?

    1. Newton Finn

      As for an alternative system–a nurturing, inclusive, and environmentally-sensitive form of national sovereignty to oppose neoliberal globalization and austerity–Mitchell and Fazi point us in the right direction in their “Reclaiming the State” (Pluto Press 2017). Vitally important book.

      1. MisterMr

        “As for an alternative system–a nurturing, inclusive, and environmentally-sensitive form of national sovereignty to oppose neoliberal globalization and austerity”

        However the brexiters got there under the banner of “national sovereignity”, the idea that migration is a neoliberal plot against the local working class, the idea that the EU is a neoliberal institution bent on globalisation (that is at least partially true).
        They also used the example of Greece as a victim of austerity (also true, though not relevant to the UK since it’s not in the eurozone).

        In Italy the Lega is very similar in policies and continually rants against austerian, neoliberal and globalist EU. They even proposed an obviously MMT inspired idea (the minibonds).

        So, all these ideals can be tricky.

        1. JTMcPhee

          Like I say, “smart people,” always looking to turn a personally profitable “quickie” trick out of whatever’s on offer…

          We mopes can look at and study what is being done, and look for notions among the writings of other mopes as to how “it could all be different.” But without an agreed organizing principle, and of course that “action” thing, all just “sound and fury, signifying nothing.” No negative feedback, no change.

          And us hopeful ones look to little interstitial initiatives and notions, like co-ops and sustainable silvi-agriculture and such, how’s that going to stem the motions and momentum of the 0.01 percenters? And the inertia of the rest of us now 7.7 billion critters?

        2. Grebo

          Most people like some idea of national sovereignty so every political movement tries to co-opt it for themselves. Once the right claims something the left often recoils from it reflexively. The left should instead come up with ways to detoxify it and reclaim that popular sentiment.

          That is what Mitchell and Fazi try to do by emphasising monetary sovereignty used for the public good.

    2. Norb

      The question is really how does one fight against organized crime?

      As long as criminals have easier targets to hit, they will. That is what makes them criminals.

      Tell me if I’m wrong, but the definition of a “mope” is an unwitting target of predation.

      It seems systems must fail in order for improvements to be incorporated into future design. The failures are replaced outright or become irrelevant and unused- buried in the complexity of surviving structures.

      Modern corporate capitalism needs to die. People thinking and acting for the collective good are the future because logically, unrestrained exploitation cannot continue- if only for the toxic pollution it creates. Everyone will be dead.

      Capitalist production needs to evolve, and as the current leadership is proving to be more insane by the day- something positive will emerge and is emerging.

      Using survival skills and not exploiting people seems to be the “winning” strategy- both individually and for Nations.

      A great deal of luck also comes into play.

      What is staring humanity in the face is another great die-off.

      Finding strength in humility seems like a good starting point- the end of hubris.

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