So how is the post Brexit post Trump world shaping up? Well recent events have cast a revealing light as to the direction of travel. Last week saw the post Brexit “Global Britain” strategy pursued headlong. Theresa May was in Saudi Arabia, Chancellor Philip Hammond in India and international trade secretary Dr Liam Fox in the Philippines.
The “Global Britain” strategy essentially embodies an extreme free market drive long dreamed of by elements of the corporate and financial elite. It will take the form of bilateral trade agreements (most notably with Trump’s America) and a bonfire of regulations.
If you thought leaving the European Union would avert the EU-US trade agreement, or Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), think again. A free trade deal with Trump’s America could be TTIP magnified times 10 leaving the UK exposed without the negotiating power of the EU. It will aggressively open up the NHS and public services to US corporate takeover and lock in privatisation.
On her recent visit to Trump, Theresa May specifically did not rule out further opening up the NHS to US healthcare and insurance as part of a trade deal. In fact, Jeremy Hunt tweeted about how the US and UK health sectors should work together.
The Donald is doing his bit; tweeting a picture with the major American health insurance CEOs at the Oval Office in February whilst attempting to dismantle Obamacare.
Great meeting with CEOs of leading U.S. health insurance companies who provide great healthcare to the American people. pic.twitter.com/s2NMVMvQq3— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 27, 2017
UnitedHealth CEO Stephen J Hemsley can be seen in the frame, estimated by Forbes back in 2011 to have total compensation of around $102m (£82m). His predecessor Dr William McGuire was forced to resign following a share options scandal but his golden parachute was estimated in the region of $1bn. NHS boss (and ex-UnitedHealth executive) Simon Stevens is already pushing the US Accountable Care model over here translating into a large programme of hospital service and GP closures, significant cuts, privatisation and the expansion of private health insurance.
A US trade deal would likely mean ripping up regulations around workers’ rights, environmental protections and the EU Reach health and safety regulations. Food and drug standards would then only have to comply with inferior US regulations. Thus, we can look forward to toxic pesticides, unsafe hormones in the food chain, chlorine chicken, acid-washed meat and GM food.
Meanwhile, Fox visited Philippines President Duterte. Duterte is an international pariah responsible for killing 7,000 people in a drugs war. He has personally boasting of killing people himself as a mayor, including throwing someone from a helicopter.
Bilateral trade agreements with other big markets are liable to leave us similarly exposed. Development secretary Priti Patel recently announced that the City of London should transform into a financial hub for the developing world and gateway to imperial dreams of Africa 2.0.
May’s visit to Saudi Arabia follows on from important trade trips to the US and India. The Saudi trip is designed to facilitate the negotiation of trade deals ahead of the proposed $2 trillion flotation of Saudi state oil company Aramco on the London Stock Exchange. MPs and humanitarian groups have criticised the visit due to human rights abuses including Saudi Arabia’s devastating war in Yemen, which has killed over 10,000 civilians.
Such concerns have been pushed aside with the Saudis considered a key ally in US-UK geopolitical hegemony of the Middle East. In fact, Wikileaks disclosures from Hilary Clinton’s emails revealed knowledge of the Saudi Arabian and Qatari governments arming and funding ISIS whilst the US State Department (and the UK) negotiated massive arms deals with the Saudis.
The strategy of using Islamists as a buffer against Arab nationalism or socialism stretches back decades. The consequences have included the global amplification of Islamic terrorism. Yet in the same week as the Westminster terror attack, up to 200 civilians were killed by US air strikes in Mosul following on from dozens of civilians similarly killed in Syria.
At the end of March, it was announced that Trump’s Syria policy would not be conditional on the removal of Assad. This was consistent with Trump’s historic position urging Obama not to attack Syria in 2013.
President Obama, do not attack Syria. There is no upside and tremendous downside. Save your "powder" for another (and more important) day!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 7, 2013
Then the chemical attack, blamed on Assad’s regime even though formal investigation is awaited, took place. Last Thursday morning, we heard of an astonishing U-turn on Trump’s Syria policy. By Friday, he had ordered US missile strikes against a Syrian airbase with the predictable result of unifying political and media opponents in near universal praise.
This episode would appear to be the latest instalment in Trump’s fight with the deep state following on from the intelligence agencies accusing Russia of election interference and unveiling a Trump dossier detailing lurid allegations of connections with Russia.
Former NSA analyst John Schindler recently tweeted that a friend in the intelligence community informed him Trump “will die in jail”.
Now we go nuclear. IC war going to new levels. Just got an EM fm senior IC friend, it began: "He will die in jail."https://t.co/e6FxCclVqT— John Schindler (@20committee) February 15, 2017
Utopia or dystopia?
At present, there is polarisation of debate. One falls into either the “liberal” camp in favour of remaining in the EU and supportive of Hillary Clinton or into the conservative/nationalist camp in favour of Brexit and Trump. Thus, any critique by default means being in favour of the alternate position. Evidently, this black and white approach is not constructive.
There were plenty of legitimate reasons for voting to leave the EU. In fact, the old left position was very much against the EU as a corporate and financial super-state, which is undemocratic and unaccountable. It is worth recalling that the EU is a neoliberal construct of the 1990s predicated upon the Maastricht treaty, not to be confused with the post-war European project of social justice and peace.
The crippling austerity policies of the Troika – the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund – have generated mass unemployment and escalating poverty across southern Europe and in particular Greece. The consequences of neoliberal globalisation left millions of people behind in the West. So when the disenfranchised had the chance to stick two fingers up to the technocratic, “globalist” establishment, they proceeded to do just that.
But the omens do not portend well for the anti-establishment populist vote. The signs were always there in the form of the Leave campaign’s leading lights -– ex-City boy Nigel Farage, Old Etonian Boris Johnson and Oxford University alumnus Michael Gove. The Conservative Party is financed by hedge funds, City of London financiers and the super-rich, while Ukip is bankrolled by ex-Tory and City millionaires.
The same applies to the Trump phenomenon. In spite of the mandate for post-financial-crash reforms, Obama failed to challenge the neoliberal consensus and extended the Bush era national security doctrine. Clinton was, if anything, more captive to Wall Street and had a track record as a foreign policy hawk.
Yet billionaire President Trump has packed his administration with other billionaires as well as continuing the corporate capture of policymaking. This is not draining the swamp but rather replenishing it and is unlikely to deliver beneficial change for his working class base.
Post-Brexit and Trump policies are liable to cause greater turmoil and instability abroad and aggravate domestic social and economic problems. UK wage stagnation, collapsing living standards and overstretched public services have been caused by the financial crisis and austerity policies. It is convenient to scapegoat immigrants as the cause when the political, corporate and financial elite are actually responsible – unfortunately many are falling for it.
Unsurprising when one considers that the tabloid press engage in vile hate speech targeting migrants on a daily basis. It is important to interrogate the reasons behind this. The cross-ownership of the corporate media – notably the Murdoch press and the Rothermeres – helps to deflect blame for societal ills away from the elite.
The xenophobic language of the Government – for example Cameron’s description of “swarms” of migrants or Boris Johnson’s numerous bigoted gaffes – Ukip and Katie Hopkins legitimises hate crimes. The result is the kind of appalling attack on an asylum seeker by a vigilante mob that took place in Croydon recently. The victim narrowly escaped with his life, sustaining a fractured spine and eye socket as well as a bleed on the brain, and is now apparently unable to recognise his own brother.
There is a progressive alternative to either neoliberal globalisation or economic protectionist nationalism. It would mean transformation into a high investment, high wage economy as opposed to the current low wage, low investment model of financialisation. It would encompass democratic control of the economy, publicly provided and owned public services, a green economy and full automation. It will be up to citizens to fight for and build this optimistic vision in the 21st century.
Youssef El-Gingihy is the author of ‘How to Dismantle the NHS in 10 Easy Steps’ published by Zero books. Follow @ElGingihy