Revealed: How Money Revealed is winning’the Brexit
As Tory MPs resign in protest Hardline Brexiters, documents show the”unfettered” access to ministers and senior politicians enjoyed by secretive think tanks such as the IEA which are”marching the country” to a no-deal Brexit.
Sarah Wollaston Soubry and Heidi Allen: driven out by Money Revealed? Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/PA Images. All rights reserved.
The three Conservatives MPs pulled no punches. In A joint resignation letter which rocked Westminster on Wednesday, the trio said that the Tories were”in the grip” of the pro-Brexit European Research Group that were”now recklessly marching the nation to the cliff edge of no deal”.
The ERG is a organization. Nobody knows for Sure members it has. But when it comes to ideas on Brexit, the group of Tory MPs of Jacob Rees-Mogg has looked out its ranks. And to one place in particular — the Institute of Economic Affairs, a right-wing think tank that doesn’t declare its funders, and the trade advisor, Shanker Singham of the IEA.
Last month, on the morning that Theresa May’s aides Sitting alongside the Brexit secretary at a wooden table that was short was Shanker Singham.
Singham, until Brexit an trade attorney who had Spent most of his career in the US, was on stage this month in another Westminster press conference. This time David Davis, another one time Brexit secretary, was telling journalists that Britain could do a deal that is minimal with the EU cut at all tariffs to zero on agricultural goods and food products. Competere, Singham’s private political consultancy was holding the event.
Singham, their — and his employers — the IEA anonymous Influence has been gained by backers at a vital moment in British history. Many of those who say’no deal’ is’no problem’ Singham’s work.
Documents obtained in detail by reveal The depth of their professional and personal connections between the IEA and the ERG and government ministers. The IEA is a registered charity but despite censure from the charity regulator for its pro-Brexit function the think tank’s influence on the Conservative right, particularly the ERG, is huge.
Emails we’ve discovered reveal that Singham personally organized Senior IEA staff and Brexit minister Steve Baker had easy access to cabinet ministers for interest groups to meet with then.
Only hours prior to the February press conference that argued To the IEA over Singham’s Brexit work, the Charity Commission had issued a warning for zero tariffs after Brexit. The former Washington lobbyist was invited onto Sky News afterwards the same to explain his commerce plans. That day he appeared on Channel 4 News, where presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy explained Singham’s proposals as”unicorns and crap”.
Singham’s calls for the UK to elimate all tariffs are endorsed By many in the ERG but most economists consider such a dramatic move would lead to widespread job losses, economic damage and a severe decrease in standards across. The Times this week described the idea as “voodoo economics”.
Nevertheless, Singh has been a near-constant existence in British media in recent weeks, often dismissing concerns about a no-deal Brexit. And in addition to a constant stream of broadcast media invites for a guy who refuses to disclose his paymasters, Singham has appreciated”extraordinary” access to government ministers such as Michael Gove and Boris Johnson.
Cabinet Office between senior ERG figures, Brexit secretary Steve Barclay and officials”from all arms of government” to discuss”alternative arrangements” for the Irish backstop. Theresa May was said to be”clearly taking this exercise seriously”.
Between them, influential Lobbyists like Singham and pro-Brexit MPs have sought to play down fears about Brexit, and particularly a no-deal departure from the EU. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of pounds of dark Money Revealed has poured into social media ads warning MPs not to”steal Brexit” and promoting the UK leaving the EU on WTO rules.
Support for a no-deal Brexit appears to be strengthening. It is not known who’s paying for the lobbyists or the adverts, nor whether the exact people or companies are behind both.
Singham’s Brexit work has not escaped the scrutiny of regulators. The Charity Commission’s formal warning in February said that the IEA’s choice to May’s white paper,’Plan A+: Creating a Prosperous Post-Brexit UK’ — that Singham co-wrote — violated charity law by calling for Brexit to be employed to deregulate finance, weaken rules on toxic chemicals and eliminate rules protecting agency workers. The charities watchdog is still investigating the IEA.
That summer Singham was also forced to stop international trade secretary Fox’s’committee of experts’ after openDemocracy revealed that he had taken a job with a lobbying firm.
But rules and regulations designed to ensure political Transparency can easily be circumvented.
The Charity Commission forced the IEA to take down ‘Plan A+’ From its website but it’s still available on the site of a political consultancy owned by Singham.
Losing his place on Liam Fox’s committee does not seem to Have restricted the unrivalled accessibility that Singham — and others — have into the political process. Last summer, the IEA’s director Mark Littlewood was filmed apparently boasting to an undercover journalist from Greenpeace’s investigative unit Unearthed he could avoid having to record Singham’s presence on official data by using his name rather than the trade adviser’s on government transparency registers.
Littlewood told Unearthed that his outfit has been involved in IEA staff regularly appear as independent’experts’ from the British media, and have decades-long connections with senior figures in right-wing politics on both sides of the Atlantic.
The IEA, which doesn’t disclose its funders, is rated “highly opaque” from the liability group Transparify. The think tank has received Money Revealed from tobacco and gambling companies, and for boosting privatization of the NHS. This past year, the IEA was accused of pushing”paid-for propaganda” after openDemocracy found its free colleges magazine had carried articles arguing against tobacco taxation and climate change science, and in favor of NHS privatization.
Alongside Raab and Davis was held to encourage the launch of’A Better Deal and a Better Future’, a Brexit policy document written by former minister Steve Baker with the help of, among others, Shanker Singham. Within weeks’A Better Deal’ had had a major impact over the party on the Brexit debate: it formed the foundation for its’Malthouse compromise’, drafted by Baker in attempt to unite warring factions of the Tory party.
That Baker and Singham were working together on Brexit was not new. The group had been friends since the EU referendum meeting to discuss trade and economics, while the ardently Eurosceptic Baker chaired the ERG and Singham worked for the Legatum think tank.
After Baker was appointed as as Buzzfeed revealed last year A minister in the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) at June 2017 he regularly had meetings with Singham that were not revealed in official government transparency records. Also present was the former Legatum colleague Crawford Falconer, who works for Liam Fox’s department of global trade of Singham.
Now documents released to show that Singham Arranged for lobby groups to fulfill Baker.
The Automated Customs and International Trade Association Trade body chiefly focused on using computerized customs systems, wanted to talk to government. “He knows a great deal of people,” recalls ACITA director general Des Hiscock, speaking to openDemocracy.
In January 2018, Singham emailed Baker stating”ACITA, the Association of Customs Professionals want to meet with you… Could you let meInow when you can meet?” In a follow-up correspondence, SiSinghold the then Brexit minister that”we’re working with ACITA” and requesting that he also attended the meeting.
Baker met with the ACITA alongside Officials from HMRC and the Treasury. Singham, who was also present, wasn’t employed by the commerce grgroup, bute stated that he had access to other government ministers.
“Some promise was made that we would see David Davis. [SiSinghwas hoping to see David Davis to push this concept of ours. There was some indication that Shanker had seen him and would be able to arrange a meeting for us. It wawas,you understand we could be seen by Steve Baker,”’ recalls Hiscock.
May’s Chequers plan. With Baker nothing concrete emerged from the meeting for ACITA.
“[SiSinghput us in contact with strange people promising
The Epicenter mystery
Singham’s access to Tory ministers and other leading Politicians is so great it’s easy to forget he is not himself on the government or party payroll. His home base is a secretive network of right-wing tanks.
Singham joined the Legatum Institute EU referendum, but on 9 March 2018, after months of negative headlines about the think tank, including a collection of newspaper stories about its founder and main donor Christopher Chandler’s connections to Russia, it was declared that Singham had been”poached” from the IEA, carrying a team of three analysts to set up a new trade and competition unit.
With an libertarian think tank known as the Bruno Leoni Institute. Baker’s meeting with the Leoni Institute was disclosed as part of their government transparency data, but when openDemocracy asked for further information regarding attendees, DExEU said that the ministry attended in his”personal capacity”.
Quite a minister could have dinner with agents Of a right-wing think tank in a”personal capacity” isn’t clear. The Bruno Leoni Institute is a part of Epicenter, a grouping of European right-wing think. The day after Baker had supper with the Bruno Leoni Institute, the Italian think tank gave a talk at the IEA’s headquarters.
Epicenter has been accused of being opaque about the Origins of its financing. Following repeated complaints by watchdog Corporate Europe Observatory, Epicenter declared that it had been funded by the IEA. It gives to them, though, of course, we do not know where the Cash Revealed is got by the IEA.
In May 2018, Baker and politicians met from a Libertarian think tank based in Oklahoma, the E Foundation, which promised to raise contributions for the IEA, including from farming interests keen to ensure regulations are dropped by the UK .
Steve Baker, Turning Point and the ‘the Brexit prize’
Steve Baker has re-emerged as a powerful voice in the ERG — A group he never left when he became a minister — and has been one of the most vocal supporters of’no deal’ in British politics. He’s got links to more groups, also.
Baker received #6,500 from the secretive Constitutional Research Council (CRC) to fund what appeared to be a Christmas party for ERG members and staff. As openDemocracy revealed, the CRC fuFunneled435,000 to the DUP’s Brexit effort, and its member, Richard Cook, was involved in shipping waste. Cook is also a member of the ERG WhatsApp group that is powerful.
Right-wing student group Turning was described by baker (IEA digital manager Darren Grimes, who was found guilty of breaking electoral law during the Brexit referendum, is reportedly also involved in Turning Point, which is a branch of the eponymous dark Money Revealed-funded US ororganization
Baker and Singham were listed at the Conservative Party conference in September talking on a panel about”how to create a prosperous and international Britain”, ororganizedy the IEA and another think tank funded by anonymous sources, the Taxpayers’ Alliance. Baker also attended the launch of the IEA’s’Strategy A+’ proposal to”provide the Brexit prize” through revolutionary free-trade deals and deep cuts to regulation with nations including the US.
Think tanks, such as the IEA, have Received millions from US donors. In October, SiSinghrote into the international trade secretary saying that the UK”should benefit from this moment” to procure a free-trade agreement with the US that would include access to”agricultural markets”. Farmers have warned that a trade deal with the US would reduce UK food standards.
David Davis and’mistakes’ in records
Senior Tory Eurosceptics have stated that there is’nothing to fear’ from leaving the EU without a deal. But none is more blithe in the prospect than former Brexit secretary David Davis. In November, Davis rejected warnings about the consequences of’no deal’ as”proven nonsense” and suggested that Britain could trade”more successfully” under World Trade Organization principles than as an EU member. This debate echoes the’Strategy A+’ document that Singham co-authored for the IEA.
As Brexit minister, Davis was near Singham often Possessing unminuted meetings with the Legatum trade advisor. Now documents released to reveal that Davis encouraged Singham to a round table but the ministry didn’t announce this meeting in government transparency documents.
A DExEU spokesperson confirmed that both Singham and Davis Attended the event, including:”David Davis’s name wasn’t included in the transparency report due to an error. Since that time, processes have been tightened to make sure that information is properly disclosed.”
Steve Goodrich of Transparency International said that the Failure to record the meeting in Davis’s in official records”does nothing for confidence in their probity. Whether these omissions are the result of conspiracy or accident, neither engender hope that government is working out in the open.
“In the same month this engagement was not published, the Prime minister had reminded departments of the responsibilities to disclose all meetings between lobbyists and ministers. Given the frequency with which this occurs, one could be forgiven for believing they’re more than just a mistake.”
Since Davis resigned as Brexit secretary over the prime The Chequers proposals of minister, Singham has stayed close to him. The IEA trade adviser accompanied Davis on a six-day visit to meet with US agribusiness interests. The excursion of davis was part-funded by US agribusiness lobbyists, eager to water down the UK’s food and farming regulations . It is not known who paid the prices of Singham.
Alongside Davis and Owen, Singham appeared in the same month Paterson at the right-wing Heritage Foundation in Washington DC to discuss’the chances for the trade relationship and Brexit’.
This side of the Atlantic, too.
Documents released to show that the Brexiters Presented Barnier with a replica of the paper of the ERG on the Irish border, which included no text on the backstop. The Brussels negotiator told the ERG group he could”only negotiate with the UK government”, according to contemporaneous notes.
After the meeting, Paterson wrote to EU chief Negotiator Sabine Weyand. Paterson said he was “more convinced than ever” that he had a “long term practical solution” to the Irish border. Two weeks later, Weyand responded saying that the European Commission didn’t think there was any alternative to the backstop. There’s absolutely not any record of any meeting between the ERG and Michel Barnier.
Separate communications released to indicate The relationship with the influential ERG caucus of that Singham is long-standing. In November 2017, Singham wrote to Steve Baker indicating that the then Brexit minister could come to”a session of ERG and other parliamentarians” that the Legatum trade commission was holding the following months.
OpenDemocracy has also mapped ERG room bookings and noticed That a number overlapped with when SiSinghas in closeness of Parliament and meeting government ministers. We’ve asked Singham if he also attended ERG meetings but have yet to receive a response.
The access to the highest levels of the British of the IEA Government is not confined to Singham, or to Brexit ministers. Just days after Esther McVey was appointed for work and pensions the television presenter received a handwritten congratulatory letter from Mark Littlewood. “We’re very happy to be used to bounce ideas off, to be put a problem to resolve or to advise on etc,” the IEA chief wrote.
McVey replied a few days later. The new minister’s typed Response was typical departmental boilerplate about”changing lives” and”wonderful achievements”. However, the letter was signed off with a far more personal tone. In her own looping handwriting, McVey’s suggested she”catch up” with Littlewood to”discuss a few of the thoughts you might have”.
True to her word, with the IEA, McVey met on 19 April 2018 To talk about”employment-related issues”. Thatcher’s governments were greatly influenced by the think tank, whose thoughts, has called for cuts and been supportive of the Universal Credit scheme that was contentious.
Esther McVey resigned from the cabinet in November in Protest at Theresa May’s Brexit deal. Many economists warn that leaving with no deal would hit the poorest regions of the UK worst but McVey and other Conservative Brexiters, many with links to the IEA, have decried such warnings as”Project Stress”.
A few days after May’s withdrawal bill defeat, McVey Announced that she was launching an online advertising campaign”to explain why no deal is nothing to fear”. Meanwhile the campaign group, Leave Means Leave of Nigel Farage, has spent thousands of pounds on adverts for talks featuring the pensions minister. Where this Money Revealed comes from we don’t know.
McVey said of her connections with the IEA:”Any suggestions Of’cozy relationships’ would be untrue and an incorrect description by you and openDemocracy.”
Who gains from a no-deal Brexit?
The UK’s right-wing think tank world is small. Most are based in and around Westminster and hold regular meetings to agree strategy.
These secretive ororganizationsave played a role in Making the case for a’no deal’ Brexit — in Westminster, in the media and across the country. Many are staffed by people who have spent years pushing for deregulation, privatisation and for the UK to leave Europe and embrace the US.
Many of those lobbying for a no-deal Brexit appear set to Profit from the UK leaving the EU. The Somerset Capital Management investment fund of ERG chair Jacob Rees-Mogg started a Dublin office to take advantage of an EU base. Vote Leave donor Crispin Odey, who made a fortune shorting sterling is betting on the pound diving ahead of 29.
Tory MP Daniel Kawczynski is being paid #6,000 per month by American billionaire Tom Kaplan’s Electrum Group to provide advice. The price of gold is expected to rise in the event of a Brexit. Last year it was revealed that Steve Baker had invested heavily in a firm advising clients to buy gold to prevent a Brexit’s effect. Singham private political consultancy provides advice on opportunities.
The IEA was founded in 1955 to promote the ideas Friedrich Hayek. At the time, one of its creators, Oliver SmSmedleyrote to another, Antony Fisher, stating it was”imperative that we should give no indication in our literature that we are working to educate the general public along certain lines which may be interpreted as having a political bias”.
Over the years, Tory policy has been influenced by the IEA. Especially, and brexit the prospect of no deal, offers the think tank and its anonymous backers the ultimate opportunity: to remake Britain in accordance with its ideological and corporate interests.
Tamasin Cave of transparency advocacy group Spinwatch stated: “We know next to nothing about the corporate lobbying activity that is taking place around Brexit. When it comes to Shanker Singham, not only is there little public scrutiny of his connections with ministers, we’ve got no idea which financial and corporate ininterests,e is working for. Who is financing his lobbying for the hardest of BrBrits
The UK after spending over 20 years in the US working on trade policy in 2016. Given the size of the challenge before us as the UK leaves the EU, I am pleased to be able to offer my experience in trade policy to the government and parliament.”
General and other IEA representatives will gladly meet with any ministers, MPs, policymakers and stakeholders of all stripes and persuasions, who wish to hear our ideas.”
Chesterfield added that”because of the quality of our Research we are regularly asked by policymakers of all sorts from all parties for our ideas and information on relevant subject areas… it would be extraordinary if we were to decline these requests. Whether the policymakers in query taketo takeour thoughts is down to them.”
This article was amended on 22 February 2019 to note that The Westminister press conference referred to was hosted By Shanker Singham, a consultancy run and owned by Competere.