DesSmog UK: Appointing the experts

17 July 2020 — DesSmogUK

  Who would you call if you were to set up a group to maintain “animal welfare and environmental standards” in post-Brexit trade deals?

Someone who knew about and enjoyed protecting environmental standards, perhaps? Maybe someone who knew about and liked animal welfare?

Or you could call some people who have for years been lobbying the UK to drop environmental regulations as a way to get favourable conditions in trade deals with some of the world’s largest polluters. Naturally, this is the route the UK government decided to take.

In setting up its new Trade and Agriculture Commission, the Department for International Trade appointed two lobbyists from the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) to offer thier “expert” advice. Yes, the same IEA that was in 2018 caught in a “cash-for-access” scandal offering a supposed US agribusiness representative “intimate” access to UK ministers in return for funding.

Oddly, neither of their affiliations to the thinktank are currently listed. Shanker Singham, their International Trade and Competition Fellow, quietly had his changed to that of his private consultancy shortly after his appointment was announced.

Less oddly, International Trade Secretary Liz Truss, who the commission will advise, has close ties to the IEA, having founded the “Free Enterprise Group” of MPs, which is administered by the IEA and has been described as its “parliamentary wing”. Truss also held undisclosed meetings with Singham and IEA Director General Mark Littlewood in 2018 while Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

Perhaps the appointments aren’t so strange, after all.

Read our full report on the Commission’s appointments here.

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