A hard-Brexit think tank accidentally published its plans for US-UK ‘shadow trade talks’ - Unearthed

A transatlantic network of conservative think tanks accidentally published its secret plans to influence US-UK trade negotiations, Unearthed can reveal.

Documents outline plans to form an “unprecedented” coalition of hard-Brexit and libertarian think tanks, which will call for Britain to ditch strict EU safety standards – including rules on food and pharmaceuticals – in order to secure a sweeping US-UK trade deal.  

The group will hold “shadow trade talks” in Washington and London to “hash out an ‘ideal’ US-UK free trade agreement (FTA).” It hopes this will form the “blueprint” for the real negotiations between the British and US governments.

The project plan – which was discovered by Unearthed – claimed the talks would be attended by an official from Fox’s Department for International Trade (DIT), with the aim of making sure the department feels “ownership” of the process.

But a DIT spokesperson told Unearthed the department had not yet received an invitation to the talks and so could not comment on whether an official would attend.

These plans will absolutely throw agriculture under the bus. The bus with £350m on the side

The IFT said the plan was an “internal proposal document that includes some ideas that have not yet been put into practice. It therefore shouldn’t have been put online.” No US or British government officials have yet been invited, the spokesperson added.

Trade secretary, Liam Fox, has previously told the Initiative for Free Trade (IFT) – which is organising the talks – that his department is  “a very, very willing partner in your great and wonderful quest.”

The plans, which were presented in a glossy brochure, have now been removed from the IFT’s website – but Unearthed is publishing them here in full .

Shadow trade secretary Barry Gardiner told Unearthed “This looks like another attempt by the IFT to legitimise what is an overtly political agenda by using a government department to sanction their work with right-wing think tanks overseas. There is far too cosy a relationship between some of these organisations and senior Cabinet figures”.

Fox’s connections

According to the documents, the shadow trade talks are set to include 10 leading right-wing think tanks from the UK and US – including the London-based Institute for Economic Affairs and the Legatum Institute, which has recommended dropping in the EU’s precautionary principle to boost trade.