A radical blueprint for a post-Brexit trade deal between the UK and US has proposed the NHS be opened up to foreign competition, a bonfire of consumer and environmental regulations and freedom of movement between the two countries for workers.
The report prepared by the Initiative for Free Trade (IFT), a think tank founded by the long-time Eurosceptic MEP Daniel Hannan and the Cato Institute, a right-wing libertarian think tank in the US founded and funded by the fossil fuel magnates and major political donors the Koch family, is set to form the basis of a push by prominent Brexiteers to persuade the prime minister to ditch her Chequers Brexit plan.
As well as its high-profile cheerleaders, The Guardian says “the blueprint will be seen as significant because of the close links between the organisations behind it and the UK secretary for international trade, Liam Fox, and the US president, Donald Trump”.
The authors argue for a free trade agreement that would liberalise government controls on capital and data flows, remove tariffs and water down precautionary principles that have guided much EU regulation on GM foods, chlorine-washed chicken, pesticides and chemicals in cosmetics.
BusinessGreen says the paper will be of particular concern to environmental campaigners given the influence the authors and associated think tanks wield within Washington and Westminster. The IFT was controversially launched last year at an event at the Foreign Office with then Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Trade Secretary Liam Fox and Environment Secretary Michael Gove in attendance. Similarly, the Cato Institute is known to have close ties to key figures in the Trump administration.
The paper also comes as some figures within government are reportedly calling for a watering down of UK environmental standards post-Brexit. Home Secretary Sajid Javid is understood to have told Cabinet last week that the UK should roll back environmental regulations on businesses in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit.
The government has repeatedly insisted it will pursue a ‘Green Brexit’ and will maintain high environmental standards upon leaving the EU. However, influential Conservative backbenchers have publicly backed a vision more in line with that proposed by the IFT and Cato Institute today, while environmental campaigners remain concerned that even if the UK largely retains EU environmental standards the government is yet to put in place sufficiently robust governance measures to ensure they are followed.
It seems like the battle to deliver a Green Brexit continues to face opposition from within the Conservative Party’s own ranks.
Treasury Minister Liz Truss risks sparking controversy by visiting the Washington offices of the right-wing group later today – where she is expected to face questions over whether she supports the radical plan.
The Department for International Trade have distanced themselves from the draft agreement, saying they had no hand in it.
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