What Price a Special Relationship?

This report was published recent in the Huffington Post a while ago but with Liz Truss about to start negotiations on a UK/US trade deal I cannot help wondering how she will get on. I cannot verify that it’s fully authentic but if even 10% is true then I’m horrified at in what disdain Big Business hold you and me.


Powerful lobbyists are pressing Donald Trump to play hard ball over the NHS, food quality and consumer rights during talks for a US-UK trade deal, it can be revealed.

The US department of trade asked American industry what the president should extract from a post-Brexit Britain.

The office said it was “seeking public comments on a proposed US-UK Trade Agreement, including US interests and priorities, in order to develop US negotiating positions”.

Organisations were invited to submit their responses in writing or verbally at a public hearing – and the responses were startling.

Lobbyists for big firms made more than 130 demands, which include: 

    Changing how NHS chiefs buy drugs to suit big US pharmaceutical companies 
    Britain scraps its safety-first approach to safety and food standards 
    Law changes that would allow foreign companies to sue the British state
    Removal of protections for traditional British products. 

It comes as wrangling over Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement reaches its final stages and focus begins to shift to the future relationship the UK will have with the EU and other trading nations.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has previously said “nothing is completely off the table” when it comes to talks with the US. 

But Labour MP Ian Murray, a leading campaigner for the pro-second EU referendum group People’s Vote, said: “These plans would effectively turn Britain into an economic colony of the United States and must be resisted.”

Here, HuffPost UK has compiled a list of just 30 US lobbyist demands made to the Office of the United States Trade Representative.

1) Scrap the safety-first approach to food quality and standards

Firms want US negotiators to force Britain to ditch the “precautionary principle” when it comes to food safety standards, multiple submissions to the US government’s consultation demanded.

Lobbyists for the North America Export Grain Association and National Grain and Feed Association, for example, said “the EU’s inappropriate use of the ‘precautionary principle’ when addressing regulatory measures is a challenge”. 

They added that the two groups “view a trade agreement with the UK as an opportunity for US negotiators to seek the resolution of several non-tariff trade barriers stemming from the EU’s protectionist use of precaution that have plagued US-EU bilateral trade”.

2) Weaken data protection for consumers 

Britain has strict regulations which protect the privacy of data and stop it from being sold to third parties. 

Adopting the EU-wide GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) rules last year made companies more accountable for data protection, a move that is credited with giving people more control over their data. 

But, in their submission, the American Property Casualty Insurance
Association said it was made clear some firms see UK data rules as a barrier. 

It reads: “US insurers have noted that compliance with data regulations in the UK, particularly with regard to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), is overly burdensome.

“We suggest that the UK-US negotiations be used to reduce that burden.” 

3) Allow the sale of hormone-riddled beef 

Unlike in the US, many hormones are banned in the UK as they are deemed harmful. 

The National Cattleman’s Beef Association have demanded that US standards be recognised in Britain, in a move which could pave the way for hormone-riddled meats being sold to British consumers. 

They asked for “mutual recognition of equivalence in safety standards” in their submission.

4) Slash British cattle farming subsidies

The National Cattleman’s Beef Association also spelled out exactly what the US farming industry wants from a UK-US trade deal: an to beef subsidies in the UK. 

British farmers are heavily reliant on government cash so this would threaten to put them out of business.

US beef farming, which has access to vast land resources and operates on lower standards, would have a distinct advantage were subsidies cut.  

The association said a “successful US-UK trade agreement must include […] elimination of beef subsidies.”

5) Allow new genetically-modified foods to be sold with minimal regulation

As it stands, any new genetically-modified crop sold in the UK must be rigorously tested and will be clearly labelled. 

But the National Grain and Feed Association called these regulations “onerous” and wants negotiators to “work with their UK counterparts to address these biotech-related regulatory oversight policies” so as to “maximise bilateral trade flows of products derived from deployment of safe crop-production
technologies and minimise regulatory risk for US exporters.”

6) Stop people knowing what they’re eating is genetically-modified food

The UK has a mandatory labelling scheme for genetically-modified food so people are informed about what they are eating. 

The National Confectioners Association, which advocates for the $35bn US confectionary industry and whose motto is “always a treat”, wants to see it scrapped. 

They said: “US industry also would like to see the US-UK trade agreement achieve progress in removing mandatory labelling and traceability requirements for products containing biotech ingredients.”

7) Get rid of Britain’s safety-first approach to chemicals 

Britain’s chemical market operates using the EU’s “precautionary principle”. 

It means the UK takes a safety-first approach to regulation and guards against letting anything into the market which could be dangerous.

But the Society of Chemical Manufacturers, which represents over 150 firms involved in the $300bn US chemical industry, told Trump to target this in trade talks. 

Its submission says: “In short, the US regulatory system utilises a risk-based analysis while the EU system incorporates a precautionary hazard classification system. An integrated, risk-based approach would greatly reduce regulatory burdens on specialty chemical manufacturers, many of whom are small-and medium-sized enterprises.”

8) Bin protections for traditional British products

Lots of US lobbyists want negotiators to pressure Britain to scrap protections for British produce which regulate how they’re marketed.

The ‘Geographical Indicator’ regulation, currently guaranteed under EU law,  stops much-loved products like Stilton and Cornish pasties being imitated by American firms, or indeed anyone, so it’s easy to see why US industry would want rid of it. 

The National Milk Producers Association says the UK should be made to “remove currently imposed EU policy restrictions on the use of common cheese names in UK market” to shift the UK closer to World Trade Organisation rules. 

9) Change how the NHS buys drugs 

The US pharmaceutical business lobby wants to change the British system for evaluating drugs in a way that would suit American firms. 

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America berates the NHS’s current risk-averse system, designed to guard the publicly-funded service against paying for ineffective and overpriced drugs, as “rigid” and a “blunt containment tool”. 

In a submission to Trump’s trade department, the group goes on to say the UK’s “narrow approaches health technology assessments, such as rigid cost-effectiveness methodologies, should not be the principle framework for assessing value.”

10) Ignore the presence hormones and pus in dairy products 

Your eyes do not deceive you: pus and hormones. 

Hormone-treated milk is common in the US but banned in the UK. BST hormone can cause unnecessary suffering to cows and lead to significant amounts of pus finding its way into their milk.

But the National Milk Producers Federation and the US Dairy Export Council want UK regulations to mirror America’s so US dairy products can be sold here. 

The main objective in a US-UK Trade Agreement should be a truly mutual and comprehensive recognition of our dairy safety systems,” the NMPF said.  

11) Ensure Brits’ data can be transferred to foreign countries …

 … where it would not necessarily be protected. 

The EU and UK is currently pursuing laws which would prevent data from being transferred across borders to other countries where regulation differs wildly. However, the US tech sector wants a new rule which would override any such law in a UK-US trade deal.

BSA – The Software Alliance says the deal should “obligate the parties to permit the cross-border transfer of data” and “prohibit data localisation requirements”.  

12) Allow politicians, not courts, to handle legal disputes

A group of American unions is demanding all disputes relating to the US-UK trade deal “shall be settled by state-to-state arbitration” – so, by politicians not judges. 

The AFL-CIO group’s ask would vastly restrict the ability of individuals and companies to seek remedies and would mean governments, rather than independent legal experts, make binding rulings on whether the terms of the trade deal have been observed.

13) Allow foreign businesses to sue the British state 

A separate investor-state dispute settlement scheme has also been suggested for a US-UK trade deal.

This one, suggested by the powerful Security Industry and Financial Markets Association, would allow multinational companies to sue the Britain over regulations or interventions the state makes in the country’s or citizens’ interests.

A crucial difference of this scheme would mean cases would not be heard in the British courts but in arbitration courts which are not subject to domestic law.

In a recent case in a similar scheme, the Australian government was sued under a similar mechanism for trying to remove branding from cigarettes, for example.

The Association told the consultation: “The most effective dispute settlement mechanism for investors is investor-state arbitration. A UK-US agreement should include such a mechanism and ensure it extends to financial services to enable investors to bring their claims on a depoliticised basis and seek damages for breaches of the obligations.”

14) Stop Britain holding big social media companies to account

Concerns have been growing over the role social media has played not only in damaging young people’s mental health but a huge range of issues plaguing modern life, including a resurgence of sexism, racism and harassment.

Debate continues to rage over how best to regulate social media firms, like Facebook or Twitter, but the US tech lobby wants Trump to curb whatever route the UK eventually chooses. 

The Computing Technology Industry Association says negotiators should ensure “the UK does not adopt measures that would impose liability as a publisher, creator, or speaker of information on third party distributors or intermediaries of that information”.

This would prevent the British government from trying to hold tech firms to account for what they publish after any US-UK trade deal.

15) End rules that let British shoppers know what colourings are in their food

US confectionary firms want to see regulation rolled back so they don’t have to make UK shoppers know what colourings are in foods.

This would risk preventing shoppers knowing whether they are buying sweets and chocolate containing chemicals and E-numbers.

The National Confectioners Association have said that “US industry is hopeful that a US-UK trade agreement can achieve progress to rescind the requirement for mandatory warning labels for certain colours used in confectionery that are approved for use in the European Union and by many governments around the world”.

16) Lift the UK ban on a growth hormone in pork

The growth hormone ractopamine is banned in 160 countries, including the UK, Russia and China. 

US farmers add it to pig feed to keep hogs’ meat lean but the hormone comes with health concerns, both for humans and animals.

In pigs, ractopamine is associated with hyperactivity, trembling, and broken limbs.

But the National Pork Producers Council said that the UK ban would act “as a major impediment to US pork exports to the UK, confining US exports to a small group of suppliers”.

17) More antibiotics in livestock 

Fears are growing worldwide about the spread of antibiotic resistance. 

The World Health Organisation has cited it as one of the biggest problems the globe faces in 2018, with concern rising that doctors will find infections more difficult to treat if the drug stops working. 

NHS chiefs have warned antibiotic use in farm animals “threatens human health” and Britain and the EU are close to bringing in regulation restricting its use.

But the National Pork Producers Council wants Trump to guarantee the UK does not regulate so it can sell antibiotic-filled meat to UK customers.

It says: “US negotiators should ensure that the proposed EU legislation is not imposed by the United Kingdom after its withdrawal from the EU and not applied to imports of US pork products.” 

18) Eliminate UK testing for a parasitic worm in pork

Achieving Justice in a Conservative World?


Post by Joanna Hardy: Court closures and the cost of losing local justice

The idea of living in the converted entrance hall of Acton Magistrates’ Court would surprise most lawyers. It used to be a sad place. Chewing gum used to cling to the floor, tackily collecting a thousand stories. The waiting-area seats groaned whenever a defendant rose to tell the local Magistrates why he had stolen the bicycle, punched the man or skipped his railway fare. The graffiti in the toilet documented the rights and wrongs of many stories and sub-plots. Defendants, victims and their respective families filed in to see justice being dispensed, case by case, crime by crime.

It was the turnstile of local justice.

Living in a converted Magistrates’ Court is not cheap. In 2017, the going rate was around £1.4 million. “Be the judge of this three-bedroom home” quipped a property article, “sleep in what used to be the grand entrance hall of Acton Magistrates’ Court”. The chewing gum has, presumably, gone and been replaced by a “rooftop terrace and steam room”. It looks happier now.

Acton might be at the start of the alphabet, but she is not alone in her dramatic makeover. Brentford Magistrates’ Court is now a luxury building that retained the cell area for trendy bicycle storage. Old Street Magistrates’ Court is a fancy hotel where you can “have a tipple” in the spot the Kray brothers once stood.

Time and again the sites of local, gritty justice have been transformed into luxe properties with corresponding price tags.

Recent figures reveal half of all Magistrates’ Courts have closed since 2010. Those pursuing local justice are increasingly finding that it is not very local at all. Courts are being consolidated and warehoused into larger centres spread out across the country. Community justice now needs to hitch a ride to the next town.

The benefits of justice being dispensed within a local community are keenly felt by those involved. For better or for worse, defendants can sometimes lead difficult, chaotic lives. Someone who is addicted to alcohol or drugs is unlikely to make a cross-county trip by 09:30am. Someone dependent on state benefits might not prioritise a peak train ticket to their court hearing if they are budgeting to feed their children. Their delays will cost society money. It might cost complainants and witnesses their time and a considerable amount of anxiety. If a defendant does not turn up at all then stretched police resources may be diverted to locate them. The community suffers.

Victims and witnesses might also struggle to make an expensive, time-consuming trip to a far-flung court. Those with childcare or employment responsibilities might not be able to spare an entire day to give evidence for twenty minutes. In some areas, the additional distance may cause witnesses a real discomfort and unease. There have been suggestions that some courts are so poorly served by public transport that witnesses and defendants could end up inappropriately travelling together on the same bus.

The benefits of local justice are clear in the day-to-day running of our courts. In some local cases, police officers still attend bail hearings. Put simply, they know their beat. They know the shortcut alleyway behind the pub, the road that is notorious for teenage car racing, the park where trouble brews. Their local knowledge helps to improve the practical decisions of the courts and to keep society safe.

The neighbourhood officer joins a long list of local benefits. Youth defendants attending a courthouse in their community can go back to school or college after their hearing. That preserves a shred of stability during a chaotic time. Probation officers sometimes know repeat offenders from earlier court orders or programmes. That helps with continuity of services including mental health, drug and alcohol treatment – often being coordinated by a GP down the road. Magistrates themselves are regularly drawn from the immediate geographic area. A community problem emerging at a particular football stadium, pub, school or street then attracts a consistent approach and a local focus.

Our justice system will be immeasurably poorer by the aggressive, short-sighted contraction of our court estate. Local knowledge, neighbourhood agencies and community justice have been gambled for large court centres making rulings from afar. The inevitable delays will waste public money. Complainants and witnesses will be inconvenienced. Police officers will be stretched. Decisions will be made in far-removed buildings distanced (in more ways than one) from the real crime on our streets.

The next time an advertisement surfaces for a luxury converted “Courthouse” building we ought to remember the real value of community justice and how much losing local courts might cost us all.


My thoughts on this

Absolutely true. As a retired magistrate I watched as our regionalised administration sought first to close local courts and then, when this was resisted, starve those courts of work, creating sub-regional centres for motoring offences, slipping AGP courts to just one or two in a county.

At the same time a growing culture of police cautions removed much of the day to day work from Magistrates Courts under the guise of efficiency even for violent crimes.

When I began my 20+ years of public duty my Monday morning court list could easily top 100 charges. Now we are lucky if it hits double figures. So many are dealt with ‘administratively’ by our clerks (sorry ‘legal advisers’) that many magistrates have resigned rather than operate a revolving rubber stamp process.

Some magistrates see a sinister motive behind this, the replacement of a local volunteer-led judiciary with paid (‘stipendiary’ – remember that term) District Judges. It became obvious in our courts that anything requiring more than a simple processing of ‘guidelines’ was reserved to the District Judge.

Putting aside the historical value of the magistracy, local justice is vital in dealing with local crime patterns, the knowledge of local magistrates invaluable in understanding criminal activities. Ask any judge who has sat on appeals with two magistrates about their value.

The Secret Barrister

I am delighted to host this guest post by Joanna Hardy of Red Lion Chambersarticulating better than I can the appalling legacy of the Ministry of Justice’s continued selling-off of our courts. 


The idea of living in the converted entrance hall of Acton Magistrates’ Court would surprise most lawyers. It used to be a sad place. Chewing gum used to cling to the floor, tackily collecting a thousand stories. The waiting-area seats groaned whenever a defendant rose to tell the local Magistrates why he had stolen the bicycle, punched the man or skipped his railway fare. The graffiti in the toilet documented the rights and wrongs of many stories and sub-plots. Defendants, victims and their respective families filed in to see justice being dispensed, case by case, crime by crime.

It was the turnstile of local justice.

Living in a converted Magistrates’ Court is not cheap. In…

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