Brexit: How Trump is taking advantage of the U.K.’s political mess
Trump, shown here meeting with Theresa May, plans to use Brexit to the advantage of huge U.S. corporations, including the pharmaceutical industry. | Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

People’s World correspondent Al Neal is reporting from Europe during Britain’s supposed departure from the European Union, originally scheduled for March 29, though now delayed. His earlier coverage of Brexit is available here.

LONDON—Putting it ever so bluntly: What the world doesn’t need now is Donald Trump taking control of international trade negotiations.

But with the possibility of the United Kingdom crashing out of the European Union in nine days, on March 29, Brexit day is still the law on the books. A no-deal withdrawal would force the U.K. to submit to U.S. trade demands—a far cry from the “taking back control from the EU” narrative uttered by many pro-Brexit campaigners.

In a February 2019 published document, “U.S/U.K. Negotiations-Summary of Specific Negotiating Objectives,” U.S. trade reps and the White House laid out aggressive demands for their proposed trade agreement with a post-Brexit U.K.

While the document outlines basic ways to increase trade between the two countries—tariff reductions, ensuring the same standards and regulations apply to both sides, the underlying emphasis is one that would force the U.K. to align with U.S, standards—moving them away from current EU standards.

And in comparison, U.S. standards, especially in labor and employment, are quite subpar.

Increasing the concerns of a trade deal with the U.S. is the demand to have access to Britain’s “comprehensive markets,” including their National Health Service and Agricultural firms.

Skillfully hidden in boring legal text is a demand—sought by U.S. big pharma and their vast lobbying war chest, that would open the NHS marketplace and flood it with overpriced medicines. This would effectively end NHS controls which maintain affordable prescription drug prices, forcing U.S.-style direct marketing of prescription drugs.

The documents single line says it will “seek standards to ensure that government regulatory reimbursement regimes are transparent, provide procedural fairness, are nondiscriminatory, and provide full market access for U.S. products.”

Key phrase being “full market access.”

“Donald Trump’s administration has now made it clear just what it will be demanding from the U.K. in return for a trade deal—and one of those things is that we let big U.S. companies run riot in the NHS,” said Labour Party MP Jo Stevens. “British consumers will lose their rights and protections and the NHS will be turned into a playpen for huge U.S. corporate interest.”

Over in the agricultural sector, The U.S. is looking to remove “unwanted barriers” related to “sanitary and phytosanitary” standards, which it considers a barrier to trade caused by EU rules that prevent the use of certain pesticides, cholerine, and hormones.

Walking by any newsstand in central London last week, you would easily find a newspaper carrying the headline: “Is chlorinated chicken safe to eat?”

Apparently, American chicken is still treated and bleached in chemical chlorine, a controversial practice banned in the U.K. since 1997 after the EU found several safety issues with the procedure.

The chief executive at the British Poultry Council said in a statement: “It is insulting of the U.S. to offer trade products that do not meet either our standards or our values. I want safe, wholesome, and nutritious food; I want world-class animal welfare; I want production that respects the environment; I want food that is affordable and available, and I want a sustainable and secure supply chain. Our trading partners must respect that because no-one wants to be left holding a chlorinated-chicken.”

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) wasn’t surprised by the outrageous U.S. demands. NFU president Minette Batters made it clear the union would fight for maintaining higher food standards regardless of any Brexit outcome.

“British people value and demand the high standards of animal welfare, environmental protection, and food safety that our own farmers adhere to. These world-leading standards must not be sacrificed in the pursuit of reaching rushed trade deals,” she said.

Other demands in the proposed deal include:

  • Ensuring remanufactured goods for export “are not classified as used goods that are restricted or banned” – not even those containing asbestos.
  • Ensuring the “U.K. avoids exchange rate manipulation to gain a competitive advantage.” Setting firm currency guarantees.
  • Unrestricted cross-border data flow in digital trading, consumer information and in the financial services sector.
  • And allowing the U.S. to cancel the trade deal if the U.S. objects to the trade deal terms negotiated by the U.K. and any non-market economy, like China.

The U.K. has yet to release its own negotiation objections but a spokesperson for the Department for International Trade said, “Negotiating an ambitious free-trade agreement with the US that maintains our high standards for businesses, workers, and consumers is a priority.”

As this political saga drags on, the public’s faith in their government delivering them from Brexit dwindles—along with the U.K’s bargaining power.

There will probably never be a harmonizing of U.S./U.K. standards, straining the once powerful “special relationship,” thanks to Trump’s vulture-like state—picking clean the rotting corpse of hope across the pond and stateside.


Al Neal
Al Neal

Award winning journalist Al Neal is PW associate editor for labor and politics. He is also the chief photographer for People's World. He is a member of the Chicago News Guild, Society of Professional Journalists, Professional Photographers of America, National Sports Media Association, and The Ernest Brooks Foundation.