Brexit: Another Step Over ‘Atlantic Bridge’.

As has always been the case with Brexit, there was never a betrayal of Britain in Brussels; that only happens at Westminster.”

An essay by Tom Kibasi, former director of the Institute for Public Policy Research, in Monday’s Guardian newspaper pulled no punches in laying the blame for the debacle that has been, and will continue to be, BREXIT.  His essay concluded with the  above quote.

Living in France for the last five years, and prior to that in the United States for thirteen years, I have been well placed to watch and analyze both the lead up to the referendum, the result that produced Brexit, and it’s consequences over the following four and a half years.

I left the United Kingdom in September 2002, just one year after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers. Prior to that I’d lived and worked in Britain all my life. For me, the UK was a good place to live. Tony Blair was still Prime Minister, and though his decision to accompany George W Bush into Iraq was to be his political undoing, his government had stabilised the country after the horror of the Thatcher/Major years, and for all but a few it was a good place to live.

The hysteria that still pervaded America one year following 9/11 was palpable to a British guy arriving there for the first time. No New York or California for me, but a mid-west non-entity to anyone more than a few hundred kilometers from the town of Decatur, Illinois.

This was the real America, unfamiliar to those around the world used only to the United States of Hollywood, or Disneyworld Florida. Nationalism was flaunted, even though Illinois was a Democratic State, but much less apparent than in the more Southern states, where guns were a religion and Christianity the vehicle of repression.

Over thirteen years I studied and observed the corrupt, inhumane, politics of America that would eventually prove the engine that powered Donald Trump into the White House. I drove a school bus and saw the poverty and degradation that children and their parents were forced to endure, the homelessness, the hunger, the beggars on street corners, the boarded up windows, the degradation of drug-flooded mobile home parks, adjacent to stinking factories pumping filthy pollution from their chimneys.

Decatur, Illinois, was ‘owned’ by the company known as ADM. The Archer Daniel Midland corporation produced high fructose corn syrup and pervaded the town with it’s clawing, sickening, stench. The older men would just grin and say it was the smell of money being made. Not much of it came their way.

The fresh air of the Brittany countryside was a welcome relief from  America, but it gave me the opportunity to cross the English Channel and revisit the country of my birth after thirteen years away.  Ten of those thirteen years had been under the control of a Tory Party diving insanely to the right of politics. My country was hard to recognize as the  same nation I had left. It had an air of desperation, reminiscent of an impoverished Eastern European, ex-communist state after Glasnost.

Most noticeable was the girth of the people. Obesity reigned, overweight children ran wild and were badly behaved, lacking the parental guidance necessary to teach them social skills. Parents were equally lacking. There was an air of poverty and general degeneration in the cities. And then it hit me. It was all so reminiscent of the America I’d just left.

I couldn’t wait to get back to France. On my return I visited one of the big hypermarkets in my town. There were quite a lot of French people about but it was relatively serene. Children sat quietly in their cart-seats, or walked sedately alongside mum and dad. There was no raucous behaviour, except for one family at the checkout with a child about five, who screamed blue murder because he couldn’t have a particular candy bar. I was quite taken aback until I suddenly heard the father say to the child’s mother, “For fuck’s sake let him have it. He’ll shut up then.” A British family, circa 2016, on vacation in France.

There are still many good people in Britain. They must despair at how the country’s gone. There’s extreme poverty, more homelessness than ever before, the class divide has gone off the scale. Britain is well on its way to becoming a 51st state of America.

Strange then that there’s more big Mercedes and BMWs flying up and down UK motorways than I’ve ever seen on French roads. Someone in Britain is doing very well, thank you. The middle class is alive and well, though it may have shrunk somewhat.

It’s not just the ten plus years of Tory rule that have created a Britain on its knees. The beginning goes much further back, to Margaret Thatcher and the defunct ‘charity’ once so popular with Tory big names – ‘Atlantic Bridge’. I’ve written about ‘Atlantic Bridge’ in the past: see HERE and HERE.

It was basically a US/UK thinktank posing as a charity, and had it’s roots back in the late 1990’s, when an aging Thatcher was no longer Prime Minister, but was appointed the ‘charity’s’ UK President. It’s original aim was closer business ties between the two countries, but it rapidly evolved into a right-wing clique of US Republican politicians and business people, coupled with Tory politicians and corporate high-ups from the UK.

The whole thing really began to stink when ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council) became involved with Atlantic Bridge. ALEC is not so much a far right-wing US thinktank, rather it’s a whole collection of far right-wing US thinktanks making it an extremely powerful body in US politics. ALEC actually writes legislation, then passes it to a crony Congress member to pressure Congress to turn it into law.

It’s been successful in drastically reducing environmental legislation that had hog-tied the fossil fuel industry, and others, and forcing through legislation beneficial to corporate business, often with dire effects upon sections of the American people.

This did not prevent many UK Tory politicians from becoming heavily involved in Atlantic Bridge, and one of the subjects frequently under discussion on both sides of the Atlantic was the UK’s National Health Service. It’s long been a thorn in the side of US pharmaceutical corporations that the British pay far less for their drugs than do Americans. It’s a huge market for the medical corporates and the NHS is a sufficiently large organisation to negotiate the price it pays for its medicines, down to a much lower level than the individual private hospitals and clinics in the US, who are very much at the mercy of greedy pharmaceuticals.

The thinking among these US corporate entities was that if the NHS could be brought under their control through privatization the rewards, not just in drug returns, but overall profits from turning the NHS into a similar entity to the US healthcare system, would be staggering.

Within the corridors of the Atlantic Bridge the NHS became the jewel in the crown. A jewel that glittered not just in the eyes of US corporate CEOs, but in the eyes of certain UK politicians.

There’s nothing like a nice group photograph to sit on one’s mantelpiece after a successful get together. Familiar faces, even down to the stupid grin on the face of the now Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, or the slightly vacant expression of Christopher Grayling, late of the position of Secretary of State for Transport (remember the channel ferry company with no ships?) He now has a seven hour a week job “advising the British Virgin Islands domiciled, Hutchison Port Holdings Limited, on its environmental strategy and its engagement with local enterprise bodies” for which it pays him a mere £100,000 a year.

In case you don’t recognize him, the guy at the back is Liam Fox, Theresa May’s pick as Secretary of State for International Trade, and who can fail to recognize that mob of unruly hair on the head of the somewhat younger and less hassled Boris Johnson, now the Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Island?

And just to confirm their involvement with Atlantic Bridge and the dastardly plot to sell off the UK NHS to American interests, below is a listing of the folk serving on the Executive Board of Atlantic Bridge during the specified dates:

Many of the names who served on the Executive Board of Atlantic Bridge are well known British politicians: Norman Tebbit, Malcolm Rifkin, William Hague, George Osborne. Not all were Brexiteers, and it’s likely a few of the original members saw the way things were moving and jumped ship.

Hague, a Brexiteer for much of his political life, did an about turn at the last moment and joined the Remain campaign. George Osborne, whatever you may think him, was always for’ remain’. Norman Tebbit was an ardent Brexiteer, as is MP John Whittingdale. Sacked by Theresa May he’s now back in Johnson’s government as Minister of State for Media and Data.

Patrick Minford is a Professor of Applied Economics and a leading member of ‘Economists for Brexit’ a group that campaigns for leaving the EU with no-deal.

There were a number of less well-known names sitting on the Executive Board, that might well be overlooked until one delves into their portfolios. Perhaps one of the most interesting was Grace-Marie Turner. She founded the Galen Institute in 1995 which was heavily involved in promoting corporate healthcare in the United States. The institute was an important member of the State Policy Network (SPN) described by Sourcewatch as:

“…a web of right-wing “think tanks” and tax-exempt organizations in 50 states, Washington, D.C., Canada, and the United Kingdom…”

SPN and ALEC are closely allied, funded by right-wing billionaires, the most notable being the Koch brothers.

Needless to say, the four fine examples of political manhood pictured above are ardent Brexiteers, but then they would be. It will be much easier to sell off the NHS to the Americans without interference from Brussels, and these guys are hellbent on doing exactly that.

The first part of the master plan went without hitch. Lies and deceit, coupled with support from a right-wing gutter press, deceived the British people into believing their hardship and deprivation of the previous ten years was entirely down to the EU, and not the gradual cutbacks and demolition of the social welfare system (and the NHS) by successive Tory governments.

Once they’d cut themselves adrift from Europe, ensuring a ‘no-deal’ exit, Johnson would be off to Donald Trump’s America, to return flush with a great new trade deal courtesy of the American President. The chaos created by the no-deal exit, with shortages of food and medicines, jobless figures going off the charts, and an NHS buckling under the strain, would be saved by American money, just as they were after WW2. The price, poorly regulated foodstuffs imported from the States, more right-wing US-style media outlets, and a gradual infiltration of all sectors of the deliberately failed health service by the giant corporate pharmaceutical companies, with a slow but steady privatisation, expensive prescription drugs, even more expensive private health insurance, admittedly coupled to excellent medical services – but only for those who can afford the huge insurance premiums.

The saying goes, “The best laid plans of mice and men…” and two factors have erupted to potentially stymie the plans of Johnson, Gove, and Company.

A world pandemic, the like of which has never been seen before, is a double-edged sword of Damocles. The UK National Health Service, a great institution for Brits to moan and complain about, suddenly became the saviour of the nation.  Clapping was heard throughout the land at eight o’clock every Thursday evening as grateful Brits opened their doors to applaud the workers of the NHS. Suddenly, everyone thought the NHS the best thing since ‘The Great British Bake-off’. Who would want to privatise it now?

Johnson & Co know well enough that once the pandemic is under control, Brits will soon begin giving the NHS the big heave once more. It’ll take a while, but it will happen.

Donald Trump losing the presidency of the United States to Joe Biden is a whole different ballgame. Trump and Johnson are one of a kind, narcissistic, prepared to lie through their teeth and justify it to themselves, to get their own way and further their own agendas.

Will losing Trump’s support cause Johnson to settle for a deal with the EU?  Or, will he still insist on going it alone in the hopes Biden will be a bit kinder to him further down the line?

Tom Kibasi thinks the ‘no deal’ was always a political hoax. I’m not so sure.

“The eventual UK-EU deal will be perhaps the first trade agreement in history to envisage more friction rather than less, less economic cooperation and regulatory alignment rather than more. Both sides will be worse off because of it, though the UK is three times as exposed and will be the biggest loser. It suits Johnson to define success as having any deal rather than no deal – a threat that was a political hoax all along.”

The only surety is we’ll soon know.





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