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Free-for-all trade fans
Tony Abbott , Issue 1530
BRITAIN’s controversial new trade adviser Tony Abbott, ex-Australian PM, is also on the advisory board of a right-wing British “free trade” group that wants to open the NHS to US competition in a future trade deal.

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FREE TRADERS: Tony Abbott and Daniel Hannan, Board of Trade advisers - and members of a think tank which would one day like to see the NHS open to US corporations
Abbott, appointed to the government’s new Board of Trade last week, joined the Initiative for Free Trade, a think tank set up by keen Brexiteer and former Tory MEP Daniel Hannan, in 2017. International trade secretary Liz Truss has co-opted Hannan on to her new Board of Trade alongside Abbott, making clear the official sympathy for Hannan’s think tank (whose launch in 2017 was graced by a certain Boris Johnson, then foreign secretary).

So what kind of Brexit do these two gung-ho free marketeers now advising the government actually want? In September 2018, their Initiative for Free Trade jointly published an “Ideal US-UK Free Trade Agreement” with the Cato Institute, a right-wing US think tank. Its proposed deal “should open all government procurement markets to goods and services providers” from either country; and it said explicitly: “Health services are an area where both sides would benefit from openness to foreign competition” – meaning the NHS, its hospitals and drug purchasing should be fully open to US firms.

It accepted the NHS was a political hot potato – “We recognize any changes to existing regulations will be extremely controversial” – and so suggested a stealthy approach whereby “the initial focus should be on other fields such as education or legal services” before health, so “negotiators can test the waters and see what is possible”. The paper from Abbott and Hannan’s think tank also said the UK should get ready to eat US chlorinated chicken and hormone enhanced beef; and any deal should avoid “restrictions based on scientifically unsubstantiated public health and safety concerns”. And provisions on workers’ rights and environmental protections? Yes: any deal should avoid these too.

PS: The motley crew advising international trade secretary Liz Truss are joined by deputy president of the Board of Trade Marcus Fysh MP. Appointed earlier this year, he remains in place despite in June having been forced by the parliamentary standards commissioner to apologise to MPs for several failures in declaring his interests. This came after the Eye revealed serial (criminal) breaches of company law by the MP in filing patently false accounts for his investment companies at Companies House. Just the man to forge Britain’s new place in the world!

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