Ronan L Tynan
The reality of what a trade agreement with #Trump’s ‘America First’ might look like came painfully into focus for many in the United Kingdom this week. First, full competition in the realm of public services is a given as far as the Americans are concerned. This no doubt will alarm many after the reassurances from brexit campaigners that leaving the EU would allow Britain to protect the NHS. Worse still the UK will have a very weak bargaining position. Indeed, desperation weighing on the British side will tempt the Americans to extract the toughest imaginable deal. That is the nature of trade negotiations.
But it is not only the NHS that will be at risk in any trade agreement with Trump’s America. Food standards will also come under enormous pressure. This means beef and pork produced using growth hormones, chicken washed in chlorine, fruit and vegetables treated with endocrine-disrupting pesticides and genetically engineered and modified foods will all have to become legal in the UK in the interests of “fairness” to giant American food corporations. In fact it is important to emphasise that Trump’s negotiators would be seen as negligent if they do not absolutely insist on that. Never mind that such dangerous methods of foods production pose a threat to human health – which US corporations pay large amounts in campaign contributions to get through Congress – but also could spell the end for much of British agriculture.
Perhaps that is why in spite of her renowned euroscepticism Margaret Thatcher was such a big fan of the Single Market because as one of the Big Three with France and Germany inside the EU, the UK could never be pushed around. Not so as we see now? Outside the EU the British market is very small in global terms and the UK’s ability to negotiate will correspondingly be drastically reduced.
EU regulations ban American style food production in Europe protecting not only European farmers but also the health of consumers. Indeed, the EU has easily resisted immense pressure by the US to accept its high-intensity, high-chemical, low-animal welfare farming. But outside the Single Market, May and her government will not have that leverage to resist American style food regulations.
Public services, agriculture and food productions are only some areas that will be affected by a US-UK trade deal. Again it is important to constantly remember these are hard fought negotiations but outside the EU, and under pressure to secure a trade agreement, acceptance of US labour and environmental standards must inevitably be demanded of the UK to ensure a “level playing field” for American corporations as well.
Many in Britain who criticised the so called “burden of EU regulations” in advocating brexit are in for a very painful shock when they realise the role they play in protecting consumers and businesses. In the United States on the other hand business seems to have the upper hand – in terms of influencing regulations – and this will be reflected in the trade agreement that the UK will be forced to accept if it wants an agreement?
Ronan L Tynan is a documentary filmmaker and co-founder of the award winning Esperanza Productions.