Donald Trump is using his state visit to back a No Deal crash out Brexit because he knows a weakened Britain will then be forced to accept the “America First” terms he dictates to the new Prime Minister.
New research from the People’s Vote campaign reveals that not only is such a deal likely to force chlorine-washed chicken, hormone-fed beef on to our plates, dangerous chemicals into our cosmetics– it will also be cemented in place by a massive attack on our rights as consumers.
Far from being able to make an informed, a key part of the US trade deal will be to make it easier to conceal from us what we are eating and drinking or how our personal data is being used.
Such a deal will never be able to replicate the full and frictionless access the UK currently enjoys to Single Market and our biggest trading partners. Instead, all the advantages will be to the US, with the NHS being forced to pay billions over to US pharmaceutical corporations and open itself up to competition from American health care companies.
But this bleak prospect is far from being a done deal. MPs campaigning for a People’s Vote on Brexit are already lining up to oppose Trump’s Brexit trade deal and demand the public – not just a new Conservative Prime Minister - are given the final say.
Publishing “The Art of the Deal: what Trump plans for Britain”, Ben Bradshaw MP, former environment and food minister and leading supporter of the People’s Vote campaign, said:
“No Deal and Trump’s Deal – that’s the Art of the Deal for the US President. His offer to the UK to replace the loss of UK access to the European single market is nothing but a mirage. It will never be as good as the deal we’ve already got with our 27 trading partners.
“But a Britain weakened by Brexit with a new Conservative Prime Minister increasingly under the sway of Faragiste entryists offers him a unique opportunity. And Trump’s hope is that we will surrender to him without any fight at all.
“The US president knows there is no chance of British consumers voluntarily choosing to buy chlorinated chicken from Chicago, Cornish pasties from Pittsburgh or Scotch Whisky from Wisconsin – so he plans to take away our rights to even know that is what we are being sold.
“Done properly trade deals take years because they require a complex trade-off of rights and regulations to ensure both sides are beneficiaries. But Trump wants to bounce us in a hasty America First deal.
“He needs to hear us loud and clear: there is no mandate for a no deal crash out Brexit. We do not consent to selling our rights to him in return for some chemically-cleaned chicken or anything else he has to offer.
“Instead, MPs from all sides of the House of Commons and the people of Britain will resist him. And we are determined that even Trump will hear our ever-louder demands for Brexit to be put back to the people in a democratic final say referendum.”
The Art of the Deal: what Trump plans for Britain
The Trump Administration could not be clearer about the scope and ambition of its plans for a trade deal with Brexit Britain.
“The entire economy, everything that is traded, would be on the table” says Ambassador Woody Johnson, a personal friend of Trump and a man who knows the President’s mind.
In a BBC interview on Sunday, June 2, Mr Johnson said US negotiators were already looking at the different components of a trade deal between with the UK so “when the times comes, we’re ready to go”.
There would be no limits on such a deal. And it would not just cover goods – the US side is insistent that any deal will also include a massive weakening of consumer rights. Donald Trump and his team know that an attack on our rights as consumers is essential if their “America First” approach to trade is to work.
And they know another thing – in the crisis that will inevitably follow a no deal Brexit a weakened British government will be desperate to conclude any deal and will have little grounds to negotiate on anything.
No Deal and Trump’s Deal – that’s the Art of the Deal for the US President.
Your rights undermined.
Donald Trump’s trade deal will be cemented in place by a massive attack on your rights as a consumer.
Ambassador Johnson claimed that consumers would still have a choice of whether or not to buy US produce: “If they don’t like it,” he said of chlorinated chicken, “they don’t have to buy it.”
And most British consumers are unlikely to want to buy chlorinated chicken or hormone-fed beef. But they will have no less capacity to make an informed choice if US trade negotiators force us to remove country of origin labelling.
Prefer your Scotch to actually come from Scotland and your Cornish pasty to be from Cornwall? You won’t have that option if Trump has his way.
And the attack on your rights won’t end on food labelling or standards – because Trump also wants to get his hands on your personal data.
US trade negotiators want to destroy Europe’s world-leading data protection regulations and give corporations much greater freedom about how they can use, manipulate and sell your data.
Health service for sale, food quality at risk
Asked if a deal would include health care, Ambassador Johnson stated: “Yes, I would think so.”
The US side want the NHS to pay more – much more – for US drugs and they want American healthcare giants to be able to bid for and buy large chunks of our NHS.
And, when questions about issues like food and animal welfare standards, the Ambassador made clear the US Administration’s determination to bypass existing European laws so the only control about what goes on our plates would be a personal decision by the British consumer.
In February this year, the Office of the United States Trade Representative published its “Summary of Specific Negotiating Objectives for a United States-United Kingdom Trade Deal”. Written in dry technical language, it details what the US demands are going to be when negotiating with the UK over a post-Brexit trade deal. Here, we explain what those demands mean in plain English.
Based on what US trade representatives have said, there are six areas of concern. These range from issues such as chlorinated chicken and private healthcare to less-known concerns over labelling and data protection.
- Changing to labelling laws that will prevent consumers being able to make any kind of informed choice.
- Chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-fed beef being sold to consumers as untraceable white-labelled meat products.
- Forcing Britain to accept medical devices, chemicals and cosmetics currently banned on grounds of safety.
- Making British people pay more for US-made pharmaceuticals and opening up chunks of the NHS to American healthcare corporations.
- Allowing the personal data of millions of UK citizens to be exported to the US where it would be subject to much weaker privacy protection laws.
- Reducing Britain’s control over its own laws by enabling US firms like tobacco giant Philip Morris to sue the UK government if they object to specific pieces of legislation.
The full proposals can be found online here.
A key priority for the US in any trade negotiations will be to open up British markets to American food exports. The problem is that most US food regulations are much weaker than those Britain has as part of the EU.
The EU’s ban on chlorine washed chicken and hormone riddled beef are euphemistically referred to as “non-tariff barriers to trade” because they make it difficult for a US agriculture industry heavily dependent on these practices to export to the UK.
The document states that the US government intends to “eliminate practices that unfairly decrease US market access opportunities or distort agricultural markets to the detriment of the United States, including non-tariff barriers that discriminate against U.S. agricultural goods” (p1).
In this context, removing these barriers would mean the UK allowing US agricultural products into the UK, so long as they conform to American standards. This is known as “mutual recognition” and is a common feature of trade deals. In the case of a trade deal with the US, however, the results are not so palatable.
Whilst chlorine washed chicken will already be familiar to many, other key differences between British and American food standards include:
- The use of a growth hormone for pigs called ractopamine, which is banned in the UK because of health concerns for humans, and because it’s associated with hyperactivity, trembling, and broken limbs in the pigs themselves. It is commonly used in the US and the National Pork Producers Council have said that Britain’s ban acts “as a major impediment to US pork exports to the UK” (link).
- A variety of hormones used in beef, which again are banned in the UK but legal in the United States.
- The US allows acceptable limits of “foreign bodies” such as rat hairs, maggots and insect fragments in many foods. For example, US producers are currently allowed one maggot per 250 millilitres of orange juice, or up to 11 rodent hairs per 25 grams of paprika and cinnamon (link). As a spokesman for the British Food Standards Authority made clear in 2015, “in EU Food Law there are no allowable limits of foreign bodies” (link).
- The US (unlike the UK) allows hormones, including bovine growth hormone rBST, to be used in dairy production. rBST has been shown to be damaging to the health of cows, and a European Union report on animal welfare said it was "associated with serious mastitis" (link), an inflammation of the udder which can lead to pus contaminating milk.
- The amount of pesticide residue allowed on fruit and vegetables is strictly controlled in the UK as part of EU law (link). However, some US lobby groups have asked for these to be relaxed so they can export their pesticide covered produce to the UK (link).
- Food colourings, including Yellow 5 and 6, Red 3 and 40, Blue 1 and 2, Green 3 and Orange B are banned in the UK for causing hyperactivity in children, but are freely available in the US, where there is no requirement that they be labelled (link).
In the US, around 14.7% of people suffer from foodborne illness each year compared to just 1.5% of people in Britain. If we allow poorly regulated American foods into the UK, we are likely to see a surge in the levels of food poisoning (link).
This is just a small selection of the differences between American and British food standards. If Britain gives in to the demands to “establish a mechanism to remove expeditiously unwarranted barriers that block the export of U.S. food and agricultural products in order to obtain more open, equitable, and reciprocal market access” (p2) then all these things and more could be on our shelves.
Minette Batters, President of the National Farmers Union, warned today (3 June):
“Put simply, some US food would be illegal to produce here. British farmers do not rely on chlorine-wash to ensure their chicken is safe to eat, nor do they feed growth hormones to their cattle, pigs or dairy cows. In the US, for example, there are hardly any welfare laws for laying hens, with no federal laws on housing, which are in stark contrast to the UK’s advanced rules on laying hen welfare.
“US farmers can out compete UK farmers on price by using products and methods banned in the UK as early as the 1980s. That’s not a criticism of US farmers but a statement of fact about the different legal requirements facing farmers in the UK. British farmers are quite reasonably expected to meet the values of the British public when it comes to how our food is produced – those values must not be sacrificed in pursuit of hurried trade deals.”
2) Labelling Laws
Woody Johnson, the US Ambassador, claims any trade deal allowing such products into the UK would not mean British people had to eat them. “If they don’t like, they don’t have to buy it,” he says. But the US Trade Representative, however, has other ideas, prioritising the elimination of labelling laws which make it easier for us to know what we’re eating and where it comes from.
The first target is Britain’s “Geographical Indicator” rules, which we have as part of the European Union. These laws ensure that when you buy Welsh lamb or Cornish pasties, they actually come from Wales or Cornwall. Such protections are currently in place for 66 British products, from Stilton to the Newmarket sausage.
The US however wants to “prevent the undermining of market access for U.S. products through the improper use of the UK’s system for protecting or recognizing geographical indications, including any failure to ensure transparency and procedural fairness, or adequately protect generic terms for common use” (p8).
If the US gets its way, you could soon be drinking “Scotch Whisky” and eating “Stilton” that was made thousands of miles away in the United States.
Country of Origin Labelling
Furthermore, the US no longer has mandatory country of origin labelling (COOL) on beef and pork, because Mexican and Canadian producers appealed successfully to the WTO, calling the rules discriminatory (link). Similar pressure could be put on the UK once it leaves the EU, meaning that you would not necessarily know where your food was produced.
Given the differences in food standards between the US and UK, this is very concerning.
Canada and Mexico challenged U.S. COOL in the World Trade Organization (WTO), arguing that COOL has a trade-distorting impact by reducing the value and number of cattle and hogs shipped to the U.S. market, thus violating WTO trade commitments. In November 2011, the WTO dispute settlement (DS) panel found that COOL treats imported livestock less favourably than U.S. livestock, and does not meet its objective to provide complete information to consumers on the origin of meat products. (link)
Given that mandatory COOL is now unlawful in the US we can expect Trump’s negotiating team to insist it becomes unlawful here too.
The US is also keen to expand the market for genetically modified food exports, which is referred to euphemistically as “agricultural biotechnology” or simply “new technologies” in the trade document. One way they plan to sell this to British consumers is to pressure the UK into droppings its mandatory labelling requirements for food containing genetically modified ingredients.
In the document, the Office of the US Trade Representative says it wants to “establish new and enforceable rules to eliminate unjustified trade restrictions or unjustified commercial requirements (including unjustified labelling) that affect new technologies” (p2). Even if you think you can avoid American products that you don’t like the sound of, a potential US-UK trade deal will be designed to make that as hard as possible.
The (US) National Confectioners Association have asked for an end to Britain’s mandatory labelling scheme for GMO, meaning that you would not know what’s in your food. They said: “US industry also would like to see the US-UK trade agreement achieve progress in removing mandatory labeling [sic] and traceability requirements for products containing biotech ingredients.” (National Confectioners Association, link)
US firms are not obliged to tell consumers what colourings are in their food, including food colourings which are currently banned in the UK. Furthermore, the National Confectioners Association has called for American negotiators to cajole the UK into getting rid of its own mandatory labelling laws for food colourings (link).
The National Confectioners Association have said that “US industry is hopeful that a US-UK trade agreement can achieve progress to rescind the requirement for mandatory warning labels for certain colors used in confectionery that are approved for use in the European Union and by many Governments around the world.” This would prevent shoppers from knowing whether they are buying sweets and chocolate riddled with chemicals and E numbers. (National Confectioners Association, link)
3) Consumer Goods
As with food, US regulation and British regulation diverge significantly on a range of other products. The United States wants Britain to recognise its standards pretty much across the board. In the chapter titled “Technical Barriers to Trade” the reports says the US wants to “ensure national treatment of conformity assessment bodies without conditions or limitations and encourage the use of international conformity assessment systems, including mutual recognition arrangements” (p4).
Mutual recognition would mean letting a range of American products that are currently banned into the British market. Some examples include:
- Medical Devices – In the US untested medical devices are allowed into the market provided they are “substantially similar” to devices already on the market. Exports of these devices have already caused significant problems in other countries (link).
- Glassware – American regulations on glassware intended to be in contact with food allow for much higher levels of cadmium and lead than ours do. While in the UK, the quantities of these poisonous substances allowed in the glass are strictly limited, in the US only the rate at which they leach into food is regulated (link).
- Chemicals – The American approach to industrial chemical regulation is to use a “risk-based” regulation model, which allows anything onto the market so long as there is a sufficiently low probability of it causing serious harm. The UK as part of the EU uses the stronger “precautionary principle” which does not let chemicals onto the market until it can be proven that they are safe. There is a danger of letting unsafe US chemicals into the British market in any free trade deal.
- Cosmetics – The EU lists 1,378 banned substances in its Cosmetics Directive, because they are potentially harmful. In the US, only 11 are banned. Furthermore, while cosmetics in the EU must be preapproved for safety, there is no such requirement in the US. Mutual recognition in this case would mean potentially poisonous cosmetics being on sale in the UK (link).
- Electronics – The UK has laws in place designed to minimise the amount of electronic waste that ends up in landfill. These regulations often prevent American products, made to lower standards, from being exported to the UK. But the National Association of Manufacturers in the US have asked for these “burdens” to be removed from UK regulation, and mutual recognition of standards would allow low quality and environmentally unfriendly electronic products to be sold in the UK (link).
It is clear that it is not just food where a US-UK trade deal poses a threat to British consumers. Light touch American regulation means that, if mutual recognition were to form the basis of a free trade agreement, poor quality and even dangerous products such as those listed above (and many more) would be on sale in the UK.
4) The National Health Service
Pharmaceutical companies have long thought that the NHS should pay more for its drugs. Meanwhile, many private American healthcare firms want to bid for contracts to run parts of the NHS. Both demands have been taken into account by the Office of the US Trade Representative, and it is clear that a US-UK trade deal represents a profound threat to the National Health Service.
NHS Drug Procurement
The price of drugs is an important political issue in the United States. Donald Trump has blamed foreign “socialized” healthcare providers like the NHS, saying that they do not pay enough for American made drugs. It is therefore very likely that in any trade negotiations, the US will attempt to force the NHS to pay higher prices for its drugs and medical devices.
The US proposal states that negotiators 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” in the chapter for pharmaceuticals and medical devices (p8).
Given that Donald Trump has in the past accused the NHS of “freeloading” because it pays less for drugs than private hospitals in America, it should be clear that a “fair” reimbursement regime in US eyes is one in which the health service pays much more for its drugs. Last year Alex Azar, the US Health and Human Services Secretary, said: "On the foreign side, we need to, through our trade negotiations and agreements, pressure them. And so we pay less, they pay more. It shouldn't be a one-way ratchet. We all have some skin in this game" (link).
US pharmaceutical lobbyists are amongst the most powerful and highest spending in Washington DC. They have been trying for years to break the NHS’s power to set the global price of medicines and they now see their chance.
Private healthcare firms running NHS Services
It is no secret that increasing portions of the NHS are run by private healthcare firms on behalf of the government. US healthcare firms have bid on and won contracts in the past, though on a small scale, and they would like to see more NHS services opened up to private American providers (link).
In the chapter titled “Government Procurement” US negotiators state that they will aim to “Increase opportunities for U.S. firms to sell U.S. products and services to the UK” and to “Ensure reciprocity in market access opportunities for U.S. goods, services, and suppliers in the UK” (p12).
It is clear that any potential US-UK trade deal would mean opening up the NHS to potentially unscrupulous and inefficient American healthcare providers.
5) Internet Regulation and Data Protection
Modern trade deals tend to cover services as well as goods. The proposal dedicates a chapter to “Digital Trade in Goods and Services and Cross-Border Data Flows” setting out how the US believes digital trade should be regulated with regards to a US-UK trade deal. Here, as with other goods, there is a danger that lax regulation in America could harm British consumers.
The main aim for the US is to prevent the UK from having data localisation laws which stop personal data from being transferred outside of the EU. In the document they state their aim to “establish state-of-the-art rules to ensure that the UK does not impose measures that restrict cross-border data flows and does not require the use or installation of local computing facilities” (p6).
The problem is that US data protection laws are much weaker than ours, meaning that once your data has been transferred to the US, it is much more vulnerable to being misused.
For example, a PWC report notes that:
The standard criteria triggering a data-breach notification in the United States is the “unauthorized access or acquisition” of a limited set of sensitive-personal data elements such as Social Security numbers and credit card numbers. The GDPR defines it more broadly as a “breach of security leading to the accidental or unlawful destruction, loss, alteration, unauthorized disclosure of, or access to, personal data.” The EU, in turn, defines “personal data” as any data that can be directly or indirectly associated with a living individual – a very broad scope that now includes, for example, IP addresses (link).
This means your data could be stored in the US and then stolen under the UK’s legal definition, but because it does not meet the much weaker US definition of a data breach, there would be no obligation for the company holding your data to report it.
Any US-UK trade deal is likely to make your data harder to trace, more vulnerable to theft and generally less secure.
Holding Social Media Giants Accountable
The UK has been exploring ways of making social media giants like Facebook and Twitter legally accountable for what is published on their platforms (link). Serious concerns have been raised about social media companies allowing things like bullying, hate speech and fake news to be posted on their sites. Moves such as this have generally been resisted by social media companies, who see it as a threat to their bottom line, and a US-UK trade deal presents them with an opportunity to stop the UK from regulating appropriately.
The proposal states the US aim to “establish rules that limit non-IPR civil liability of online platforms for third-party content, subject to the Parties’ rights to adopt non-discriminatory measures for legitimate public policy objectives or that are necessary to protect public morals” (p6).
If the UK ends up agreeing to these proposals, its ability to properly regulate harmful, dangerous and even illegal online content will be greatly limited.
6) Sovereignty Issues
Sovereignty was a key issue during the EU referendum in 2016, and one of the main drivers for people who voted leave. A trade deal with the US will, however, limit British sovereignty in many areas.
American negotiators want to create a panel that has the power to make rulings on any disputes that arise over the US-UK trade deal. It aims to “establish a dispute settlement mechanism that is effective and timely, and in which panel determinations are based on the provisions of the Agreement and the submissions of the Parties and are provided in a reasoned manner” (p14).
Furthermore, the US wants this panel to be able to rule on disputes both between the US and UK governments, and between “non-governmental entities” and the UK. It aims to “establish a dispute settlement process that is transparent by … ensuring that non-governmental entities have the right to request making written submissions to a panel” (p14).
This would effectively allow private investors to sue the British government over perceived violations of the trade agreement.
Investor-state dispute mechanisms have caused problems for other countries in the past. For example, the cigarette company Phillip Morris has attempted to sue both the Australian and Uruguayan governments over their decisions to implement plain packaging laws (similar to those in the UK) for cigarettes (link 1, link 2).
If Britain signs an FTA with the US, it will be forced to concede significant amounts of sovereignty to unelected and unaccountable “panels.” Not only would this negate one of people’s main reasons for leaving the European Union, but it would make the UK more vulnerable to the whims of multinational companies than currently.