Spectacularly unsuccessful disgraced Neo-Con International Trade Secretary Liam Fox promised 40 trade deals would be ready for ‘one second after midnight’ on Brexit day.
In March 2018 he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme:
“We will have arrangements that we will be able to roll over from the European Union’s agreements, we hope to have around 40 of those. We hope we will have all of those in place by the time we go.
“There are about 70 countries and 40 agreements. We hope all of those ones will be ready because they are extensions of what we have at the moment. Of course we require the agreement of the countries involved. We have spoken to all 70 countries involved. They have all given agreement that they’d like to see that in place.”
He went onto say that he wanted the UK to take advantage of ‘being able to negotiate beyond the European Union’s borders’.
“We’ve got 14 working groups in place with 21 countries at the present time I’d hope to make as much progress as possible because we need to have a confident and optimistic agenda for Britain’s future,” he said. He told the BBC trade talks had begun with Australia, New Zealand and the USA.
Of course it was total hogwash. While Fox was busy racking up air miles and getting nowhere fast in negotiating these phantom trade deals, others were warning that the 40 countries would not just be rolled over – and why should they?
The UK was leaving the EU – and they would squeeze the UK for everything they could get. These countries would also want to see what sort of deal the UK struck with the EU.
Dr. Fox was given regular reminders by industry and unions that it took the EU over seven years to negotiate the EU-Canada deal (CETA). But he carried on ‘grandstanding’, to quote Labour’s shadow trade secretary Barry Gardiner.
That was until last week, when he was forced to admit it was not going as well as expected. Fox had to admit that the government was significantly behind in securing the 40 free trade deals with only a handful agreed so far.
It appears only six of the 40 deals are likely to be in place by Brexit day: 30 deals that need to be ready are now considered ‘off-track’.
The progress in replicating the EU free trade deals so far amounts to just £16bn of the possible £117bn the 40 agreements cover.
[In] just over five weeks time, Fox can head to Washington to face the most experienced negotiating team in the world, determined to force Britain to accept chlorine-washed chickens and allow big business to get its hands on the NHS. This is not scare-mongering. We know precisely what US multinationals want because they told us last month: standard-slashing policies that includes allowing meat filled with antibiotics and steroids onto our shelves, as well as vegetables covered in chemical residues and milk with more pus in it. And less labelling on that food. It includes more expensive medicines, costing the NHS billions of pounds, and new data rules allowing Big Tech to use and abuse your data at will. It includes more GMOs, and worse chemical standards, and a corporate court which can be used by US multinational to challenge government decisions. By and large, the US administration agrees with this wish list.
The threat to the NHS is mostly that posed by the corporate court system. And it is not made up. Stewart Hosie pointed out how it might affect government decisions yesterday in parliament:
“In Scotland, when cleaning was contracted to the private sector, hospital-acquired infection rates went up. We then took a decision to bring back NHS cleaners, and hospital-acquired infection rates came down. Had that contract been won under the terms of one of these agreements, we could have been sued and challenged.”
He’s quite right, which is why many campaign groups launched a campaign against these awful courts, known as ISDS, this week. Such a system is already part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which Fox wants the UK to sign after Brexit. The deal has been widely criticised by trade unions and campaign groups across the world for entrenching deregulation and liberalisation. Signing this deal would also move us away from the EU “precautionary” system of trying to prevent harmful products coming onto to the market, to one which says, “let’s not worry until something really bad happens”.
Most of this won’t concern Fox, who seems to know “the price of everything and the value of nothing”. His belief is that the free market will work its magic to provide us with cheaper goods, and that will be beneficial for consumers. No matter that consumers are largely also producers – and that some cheap clothes made in appalling conditions doesn’t make up for losing your job. Fox is full throated in his support of ISDS, and yesterday said that the EU-Canada deal CETA was a great basis for future UK deals. CETA also includes ISDS.