Why the Idea of a Trump trade deal for Britain is a fantasy
Last week, ex Justice Secretary, Brexit campaigner and failed Tory leadership contender, Michael Gove, interviewed recently inaugurated President of the US Donald Trump, in Trump tower. The interview, which you can read in the Tory propaganda rag the Times, consisted of Trump smooth talking Gove by telling him that he thought that Britain were doing a great job with Brexit (Tory’s haven’t come up with a real plan for Brexit) and that he thinks Britain has been forced to take in too many refugees (Britain has only committed to taking 20,000 refugees by 2020). In response, Gove basked in the orange glow of the Donald, showing not a shred of journalistic integrity or willingness to challenge authority in the process, even failing to explain to Trump, the difference between EU freedom of movement regulation and the refugee crisis. The part of the interview that seems to have got the most praise from both the UK government and the mainstream press however seems to be the part where Trump claimed he would move ‘very quickly’ to secure a trade deal with the UK after Brexit.
This was a point quickly picked up upon by Theresa May in her Brexit speech. Apart from confirming that her long awaited Brexit negotiating strategy includes threatening to turn the UK into a hard right corporate tax haven if the EU don’t give in to our absurd demands to ‘have our cake and eat it’, another notable feature of the speech included a bit where she pinned her hopes on Donald Trump to give the UK a free trade deal, saying that ‘President Elect Trump has said Britain is not at the back of the queue’ for a trade deal with the United States, the world’s biggest economy, but front of the line’. However diplomatic this sounds, this is really nothing more than unbridled optimism for a number of reasons.
TTIP and Trump
One of the main arguments coming from some Brexiters during the referendum debate was that we should leave the EU so we don’t have to sign the TTIP corporate power grab. If signed, TTIP would have essentially allowed privately owned corporations to sue governments in secret courts, for introducing legislation that they don’t like. Despite the numerous objections that TTIP was dead in the water before we even voted to leave the EU, because the governments of Greece, Portugal and France would never vote to ratify it, opportunistic Brexiters still used fear of this corporate power grab in order to coerce people into voting to quit the EU.
Now, suddenly Brexiters are celebrating the idea of TTIP 2.0, but not based on an agreement between Barack Obamas centre right government and the diverse political structure of the EU, but between President Trump’s far right billionaire cabinet and Theresa May’s hard right Tory government! People who read by blog posts at the time will know that I always strongly opposed TTIP, as it would have destroyed the NHS and forced governments to repeal any environmental or corporate regulation legislation put forward by any of the decent MP’s in the UK parliament. Furthermore, I think it is a very good thing for the remaining 27 EU nations that this toxic corporate power grab is dead in the water. However, as I said all along, Britain quitting the EU would likely mean the development of an even more ferociously right wing corporate power grabs, and Theresa May’s speech, inspired by Trumps interview with Michael Gove, has made it absolutely clear that a corporate takeover deal between the UK and US is one of her big priorities for post Brexit Britain.
Just a few days after Theresa May’s pitiful Brexit speech, Donald Trump made his inaugural speech as President of the United States. Here are a few extracts:
‘From this day forward, it’s going to be only America First, America First. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign will be made to benefit American workers and American families’
‘Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength’
‘We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and Hire American’
It is important to consider here how Theresa Mays threat to turn Britain into the world’s biggest corporate tax haven is compatible with Donald Trumps ‘America First’ rhetoric. Is Donald Trump going to sit idly by while Britain lowers its corporation tax to near zero in an attempt to get major multinational firms to get major multinational firms to abandon Europe and the US to relocate in Britain? If Trump sees tax haven Britain as a threat to his ‘America First’ ideology, how is this going to influence his decision making? Would he introduce protectionist measures in order to counter the threat of Tax haven Britain, or would he join us in a ‘race to the bottom’ drive to eliminate taxes on corporations and the super-rich, creating an Anglo American corporate dystopia? Whatever Trumps reaction to tax haven Britain, it’s hardly likely to be good for ordinary British people.
Theresa May is pinning her hopes on a free trade agreement with the US, but the new President is talking boldly about protectionism, putting America first, rigging trade agreements to benefit America and refusing to buy or hire British products. Donald Trump’s bold protectionist rhetoric makes Theresa May’s free trade fantasies look blindly and pathetically optimistic if she thinks she is going to get a trade deal with Trumps America that will benefit anyone but American companies.
A Position of Weakness
By resorting to childish insults before negotiations have even begun, Theresa May has put the UK in a position of political weakness. If the EU do as expected and rebuff the Tory efforts to cherry pick access to the single market for favoured sections of the economy like the financial sector and the car industry, then she will be left to decide whether to follow through on her threat to turn the UK into a giant corporate tax haven in retaliation.
If Theresa May gets ‘no deal’ from the EU, then the UK will clearly be in a position of extreme geopolitical weakness, and the countries lining up to form trade deals with us will factor that into their negotiations. They will be in the position to say ‘you need us more than we need you, so what are you going to give us?’. The idea that Donald Trump wouldn’t use Britain’s geopolitical weakness as a huge advantage in the UK-US trade negotiations is absolute fantasy. He’s not going to give the UK a cushy deal just because he’s got Scottish ancestry, or because he’d like to grab Theresa may by the pussy, he’s going to use Britain’s weakness and isolation like a diplomatic half nelson to extract the best deal possible for American corporations.
The idea that a rushed Trade agreement between the Tory’s and Donald Trump administration is going to be some sort of saving grace for Britain is frankly delusional. Even at the best of times such a hastily cobbled together deal between two hard right governments would hardly be beneficial for ordinary people, but with Britain going into any negotiations in a position of extreme geopolitical weakness, its likely to end up being a very one sided deal with very more many benefits for American corporations than benefits for Britain.