THE BLOG

Theresa May's Deal With Donald Trump Will Harm The UK Much More Than Brexit

04/06/2017 22:33 BST | Updated 04/06/2017 22:33 BST
Joshua Roberts / Reuters
U.S. President Donald Trump announces his decision that the United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 1, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

British democracy, healthcare, energy, food and environmental standards would all be up for sale.

In just under a week, people across the UK will go to the polls to vote for who they want to represent them in the next government. Ever since she announced the snap election with a 24-point poll lead, Theresa May has used her limited public appearances to browbeat the electorate with calls for "strong and stable leadership" and to "strengthen her hand" in Brexit negotiations. After a disastrous Tory manifesto launch and a surge in popularity for Labour's domestic policies, her lead has now slipped down to 3 points , according to recent polls. This has led the Prime Minister to double down, and further push for Brexit as the defining issue of the election.

Ms. May has boasted that she will be a "bloody difficult woman" with the European Union. She has also repeatedly stated that "no deal [with the EU] is better than a bad deal", and that she would be willing to default to World Trade Organisation terms if a deal cannot be struck by 2019. While this bold stance may court the votes of hard Brexiteers during a General Election, the reality is that the economic effects of "no deal" are potentially disastrous for the UK. A recent World Bank study argues that a shift to WTO terms would cause trade in UK goods within the EU to halve, while trade in services would fall by 60 per cent. No members of the G20 currently trade with the EU on WTO rules. All have some special trading relationships in place.

Of course, the UK has its own 'special relationship' - with the United States. Within a week of Donald Trump's inauguration, Theresa May was seen holding hands with the President in the halls of the White House. At a joint press conference with The President, The Prime Minister spoke about how "the USA is the single biggest source of inward investment to the UK" and was keen to promote a closer US-UK trade and military partnership, "particularly as the UK leaves the European Union". Trump, meanwhile, complained about the difficulty he found in navigating EU regulation while working in business. He spoke of his anger at being "ripped off" by the rest of the world. He confirmed his eagerness to renegotiate trade deals in the US interest, to stop them "losing", and claimed that past leaders had made the US "look foolish" after being out-negotiated.

Trump is hoping to succeed where his predecessor failed. Barack Obama, throughout his Presidency, attempted to pass the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) - an EU trade deal that firmly favoured US interests.

TTIP aimed to curb regulations and remove all customs duties on corporations trading between the US and the EU, as well as removing 'non-tariff trade barriers'. This broad and ill-defined term included any law, financial regulation, ethical code, health standard or environmental protection that restricted the operations of US corporations within the EU.

Most worryingly, the agreement would have allowed for 'investor-to-state dispute settlements' (ISDSs), which would have allowed large multinationals to sue a sovereign nation if their government passed a law that limited the corporation's ability to make profit. These cases wouldn't have been settled through national or European courts (as they were deemed to be biased) instead, they would be decided through private courts that the TTIP would create.

The deal was also suspiciously secretive. If an MEP wished to view the document outlining the terms of the deal, they would only get two hours to look through the complex legal document (which is hundreds of pages long). They would have to give over their possessions before entering the sealed-off reading room, and a guard would watch over them the entire time. They were also not allowed to tell anyone what they found inside the document.

After the Dutch arm of Greenpeace leaked 250 pages of the agreement, senior figures in Germany, France and Italy declared TTIP all but dead. They cited the heavy favouring of US interests and the overwhelmingly hostile public backlash to the deal from citizens across Europe.

However, the men who now form Theresa May's Brexit negotiation team all strongly supported Britain's part in the TTIP deal. Liam Fox said he would push for TTIP even with Britain leaving the EU. Boris Johnson said there was "nothing not to like about TTIP" and lauded it as a "sensational opportunity to break down the remaining trade barriers [with the USA]". Whilst David Davis wrote that upon leaving the EU he will seek to "accelerate our component of the TTIP deal with the USA, and include financial services."

It's also worth remembering that these are the men who will likely be working with Theresa May to renegotiate UK trade deals for the next five years. They will be the ones sitting down with a President who is as enthusiastic about putting America first as he is about his own ability to broker "big deals". Undoubtedly, any US-UK trade deal struck with Donald Trump will go further than Obama's TTIP. Theresa May has already suggested that the UK health service could be part of a US trade deal. If the UK cannot hash out a deal with the EU over the next two years and ends up defaulting to WTO terms, the US will be eagerly waiting to exploit the huge gaps left in the UK market.

The passing of a TTIP-like deal would allow American private healthcare firms to bid for NHS contracts. American energy corporations would be free to frack for gas on UK land. American food companies could bypass regulations to sell food currently not deemed fit for consumption in the EU. Internet freedoms and net neutrality can be totally undermined by American entertainment giants. The same US bankers that caused the Global Financial Crisis could operate within the UK financial markets without regulation. All the while, none of these big American companies would have to pay import or export tariffs.

Worst of all, if a democratically elected UK government tried to pass legislation renationalising the NHS, increasing food standards, protecting internet freedom, cutting fossil fuel subsidies, or taxing bankers bonuses; an American corporation could effectively sue the government for loss of profits in a private court and win damages paid for by the taxpayer.

Lobbyists will be able to effectively blackmail the government into only passing laws that increased profits for dominant corporations - to the detriment of patients, taxpayers, voters and small and medium-sized European businesses.

Theresa May's special relationship with Donald Trump will have disastrous consequences for the UK. A Tory-Trump deal will inevitably flood the British market with low quality products; allow American corporations to buy off public services wholesale; negatively affect the health of millions; permanently damage the environment; accelerate climate change; encourage risky, speculative and unregulated financial trading; and completely undermine our democracy.

With Article 50 signed, and the UK definitely leaving the EU, it is now time to decide. Do we want to take back control of our sovereign democracy and protect our public services? Or, do we want to allow American corporations to control our Parliament and fully privatise our National Health Service?