Big Business Dominates Brexit Negotiations


Achter de schermen van de Brexit-onderhandelingen overlegt het Britse onderhandelingsteam standaard met een klankbordgroep van tien leiders van grote bedrijven. Wat is daarvan de invloed?

In this Real News Network interview, Nick Dearden of Global Justice Now discusses a wide range of Brexit concerns, beginning with the dominance of big business lobbyists in behind-the-scenes domestic discussions concerning Brexit.

Duur: 15:29

Publicatie: 2 september

SHARMINI PERIES: It’s the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. Deep divisions remain over the role that the European Court of Justice should have in Britain following the exit from the European Union. These divisions show little sign of softening and were more exposed on Thursday after the U.K. Brexit Minister met with EU negotiators in Brussels. This comes at a time when opposition to the extreme executive powers granted under the Great Repeal Bill continues to mount. A new report from Corporate Europe Observatory and the Global Justice Now says, “For every meeting with the NGO, the EU’s Brexit Task Force met 10 corporate lobbyists.” Joining us from London to discuss the role of the European Court post-Brexit as well as the Great Repeal Bill and their latest report on the matter is Nick Dearden. Nick is the director of Global Justice Now, which is a U.K.-based public interest social justice organization. Nick, good to have you with us.

NICK DEARDEN: Thank you very much.

SHARMINI PERIES: Nick, let’s start off with the latest analysis on the role of corporate lobbies dominating Brexit negotiations. In the report titled “Big Business Britain: How corporate lobbyists dominate secret meetings with Brexit negotiators in London and Brussels” explain your findings in that report and what is most alarming.

NICK DEARDEN: Well, what we found, we looked at the last six months’ of meetings that have been held by both the Brexit Minister and also the Trade Secretary, and what we found is the Brexit Minister has met, for every public interest representative that they meet, they meet six business representatives. Mostly big business representatives. In the trade department it’s even worse. For every one public interest representative it’s nine big business representatives. What we find is, huge decisions are being taken about the future of this country because Brexit will change everything, effectively change our Constitution. Yet, the overwhelming number of people that are influencing this process are, surprise, surprise, big businesses. In fact, we find especially big finance around the table regularly with government ministers. You’ve got people like Goldman Sachs, four meetings. HSBC, six meetings. TheCityUK, a big financial lobby group, eight meetings. Meanwhile, the two biggest trade unions in this country had only one meeting each. Overwhelmingly, other voices are being drowned out by the transnational corporations who want this to work in their interests.

SHARMINI PERIES: Right. What would you say to those who might argue with you that EU is a collection of businesses, and Brexit poses far-reaching consequences for businesses and millions of employees that they employ, thus that they should be involved in these discussions?

NICK DEARDEN: Oh, of course, and nobody’s saying they shouldn’t be involved in the discussions. I think when you have them influencing the discussions in a way that so outweighs everybody else, public interest groups, trade unions, consumer protection groups, environmental groups, indeed public universities, many representatives of the public sector also, completely overwhelmed by meetings with big businesses. It’s clear that they’re not just one participant at the table but they’re actually increasingly the interests of some big businesses, some big corporations in this country, are having way more influence, way more power of these negotiations than anyone else, that’s going to massively shape the type of country that we become after Brexit. One of our main concerns is actually we’re going to be looking at a Brexit which is about low regulation, lower working standards, lower environmental standards, lower consumer protection standards, because that’s in the interest of some big businesses. What you effectively see is those big businesses are shaping the whole way that our country operates. That’s a real problem.

Actually, I’d say as well it’s an underestimate of the amount of influence that big business has got because this is only the stuff that we’ve got that’s on the record. Actually, many of the institutions and organizations that we counted as public interest groups are actually effectively think tanks for the business lobby, far right, libertarian think tanks that actually represent the business interests far more than they represent what we agree describes the public interest.

SHARMINI PERIES: Now, Nick, on Thursday the Guardian reported that more than 70 charities, NGOs and trade unions along with rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Liberty, and Friends of the Earth, I believe, have joined a formal alliance to push back against the Great Repeal Bill. Nick, can you just remind us here on the other side of the pond about the Great Repeal Bill, what is it apt to do? And it’s being called the Henry VIII Powers in Britain. Give us a sense of what that bill allows them to do today.

NICK DEARDEN: This is the biggest piece of legislation that’s ever passed through the British Parliament. Essentially what it aims to do is translate all European law into British law. They say, “Well, we need to do this, because of course on the day that we leave the European Union we don’t want to have a black hole in our legal system. We want to have all the law as it currently exists.” So they’re translating it all over. “Fair enough,” you may say. The problem is, in translating this law over they need to do more than just replace the initials EU with the initials U.K. They need to make decisions because we’re going to be withdrawing from all sorts of institutions that keep this law alive and enforce it and so on. You can’t simply say, “We’re pulling out of all of the enforcement mechanisms that allow Human Rights Code to actually mean something.” You have to replace them with something.

Now, the problem is how do you do that because you’re having to do that across a massive spectrum of different sorts of law, from workers’ rights, to environment, to human rights law, and so forth. Essentially they’re going to do that by giving Ministers very, very large amounts of power to make decisions outside of Parliament as to how those laws should be transposed. They’re extensively using something we call Henry VIII Laws. Henry VIII, you probably know, was a famous English monarch from the Renaissance period, especially known for executing several of his wives. Quite a tyrannical figure. He invented certain laws to get around having to go to Parliament to get them to sign off all sorts of things that he wanted to do. So Henry VIII Laws are essentially a way of the executive making decisions outside of Parliament’s full scrutiny and accountability. This will be used in the Great Repeal Bill as things stand more than it’s ever been used in peacetime before.

Government ministers will have serious amounts of power to reformulate how laws exist and how they’re implemented. That really, really worries us. We’re saying, “You need extra scrutiny for this period of time when you’re transposing such enormous amounts, such enormous quantities of legislation.” We don’t want Parliament signing away it’s power and allowing ministers to do this behind the scenes, because what it could mean is they’re cutting our ability to enforce this law and keep this law up to date for the foreseeable future.

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