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‘Reckless’ to Restart US-UK Trade Talks in Midst of Pandemic, Campaigners Say

The decision to restart Brexit trade talks between the United Kingdom and United States is coming under increasing criticism as the two nations face twin national crisis’ and the highest proportional death toll from COVID-19 in the world.

Reacting to reports that the talks are to restart virtually next week, Jean Blaylock, trade campaign and policy manager at Global Justice Now, said:

“This would be a high risk trade deal at the best of times, but to try and embark on negotiations in the midst of a pandemic crisis when government and society are stretched to the limit is reckless in the extreme.”

Jean Blaylock

The talks were postponed “indefinitely” less than a month ago with no date then envisioned for a resumption. However, as both Johnson and Trump have set course on reopening their two nations for business, the talks will now resume this coming week with death tolls still astronomical in both countries.

Coronavirus has exposed the flaws in the pro-corporate agenda that this trade deal is intended to entrench – from weakening public services to bringing the market into health care, driving up medicine prices and lowering safety standards. None of these changes will improve our lives.

Chlorinated chicken has become an iconic symbol of the risks to animal welfare and food standards from a US-UK trade deal. Yet it takes on even more significance at a time when the need for strong animal welfare and environmental standards to avoid future transmission of novel viruses from animals to humans is painfully clear.  

Jean Blaylock

It has long been known that alongside moves to lower food standards and environmental restrictions, moves were well underway to “open up” the NHS to American companies, a fact that was revealed prior to the 2019 General Election.

It was in October that secret talks between senior British civil servants and representatives of several major American pharmaceutical giants concerning NHS drug prices were revealed, raising fears at the time that the Conservative government plans wholesale privatisation and price hikes post-Brexit.

Speaking with Channel 4 Dispatches, a source with knowledge of the talks stated that British trade negotiators had six meetings with U.S. counterparts to discuss what will compromise a future trade deal between Britain and the United States.

While exact details of discussions are highly confidential, a source told Dispatches that drug prices and drug “price caps” have been a subject on the table at all six meetings between the two parties with representatives of U.S. Big Pharma being given direct access to British trade officials.

Whatever Johnson and Trump’s rhetoric, the deal will have very little impact in getting the real economy going again. The most optimistic estimates predict at most a fraction of a percent in growth. All this type of deal will do is tie the hands of the government at a time when they need full scope to provide economic stimulus, a green recovery and to protect jobs.

We know both sides have already pledged to keep all the details secret not just during the negotiations but for five years afterwards. With this level of secrecy, parliament and the public will have no say on the deal being sewn up behind closed doors.”

Jean Blaylock

Beginning on Wednesday, the talks are due to last for two weeks and will be carried out by International Trade Secretary Liz Truss and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

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