‘You’ve got nothing to worry about,’ said Henry. ‘The newspapers are never going to get run stories about anything as boring as food production, and even if they did, the public wouldn’t be interested, because they’re stupid… And anyway, whenever one of these boffins in white coats start popping up with some crackpot report, what’s to stop you getting your own people to produce a set of figures which prove the exact opposite?’
Jonathan Coe wrote What a Carve Up! in the mid-90s. You’ll be glad to know that some 20 years on his satirical tale of unscrupulous British elites remains depressingly accurate. In Coe’s telling, all aspects of British society – from the media to the NHS to agriculture to art – are stitched up by the Winshaw family, a rabble of unrepentant backstabbers who stop at nothing to fill their coffers at the expense of the nation. The novel’s been criticised as being overly simplistic in its depictions of the Winshaw’s; they’re cynical, grasping bastards whose only redeeming feature is the occasional debonair quip. Reviewing this week’s performance from current Trade Secretary Liam Fox, you’d be forgiven that the only thing Coe got wrong was the quipping.
This week Liam Fox (who, let’s not forget, was previously fired as Defence Secretary for granting his mate, the corporate lobbyist Adam Werrity, dubious access to MoD assets and contacts) has been telling the press to stop ‘obsessing’ about the tiny ‘detail’ of America flooding the post-Brexit British market with hormone injected, chlorine washed chicken. He’s firmly of the school of Henry Winshaw in the above quote; not only has Fox been brushing aside questions as to whether he’d actually eat a piece of chlorinated chicken himself, he acts as though asking the questions in the first place is an act of piffling insolence that has no bearing on the interests of the public.
For those who’ve missed this sordid spectacle, the deal is this: We’re out of the EU because Brexit. For Leave voters, this means we’re in a wonderful position whereby we can negotiate new trade deals around the world, free of all that pernicious EU red tape that was holding us up. Someone’s gonna get filthy rich. Obvs the UKs first port of call for a new trade set up is America. Free-market loving Brexiteers and American agricultural interests are salivating; they want to open up the British market to American products- a market that has previously been closed to them because the meat being machine pumped out of the American farming industry fails to meet EU standards of being fit for human consumption.
You, a stupid person, may think that there’s no logical reason to fill our country with shittier meat than Europe’s already grotty factories already churn out (which, in the time of the Tesco horse burger, is set at a remarkably shitty level). Luckily, right-wing, free-market loving think-tank the Adam Smith Institute – all very, very clever people- are here to explain just why you are stupid in your fear of rancid chicken. A couple of days ago they published a paper outlining their reasoning. Here’s the highlights from a paper that could end up having huge repercussions. In their own words, "we propose things which people regard as being on the edge of lunacy. The next thing you know, they're on the edge of policy”… So, from the report;
“Agreeing to US poultry imports would help to secure a quick US trade deal, and bring down costs for British households,” the report says. “European opposition to US agricultural exports has held up trade talks for years. By scrapping the ban on chlorinated chicken imports, the government will send a signal to potential trading partners across the globe that the UK remains an open-facing and free trading nation.”
“In return, the UK may benefit from better terms of trade with the US. Perhaps this would be in the form of “passporting” rights for Britain’s financial institutions, with automatic mutual recognition of the two country’s different regulatory systems. Or, talks could involve freeing the movement of workers between the US and the UK.”
“Conceding poultry market access as part of a US deal should not be viewed as a negative, intended only to advance the UK’s ability to secure trade deals after Brexit. Rather, the availability of chlorinated chicken products should be seen as a boon, enabling consumers to exercise greater choice over what they can eat. The US poultry industry is far more efficient than that of its European counterparts, making it well-placed to drive down the cost of chicken meat in a post-Brexit UK…
“British trade negotiators should be authorised to approach US trade talks willing to concede ground on the importation of chemically disinfected chicken, in recognition of the scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of PRTs, and of the potential advantages to price-sensitive households.”
This is beautiful stuff. Let’s go through it step by step, whilst ruminating upon the fact that this isn’t the work of hard right kooks- This is mainstream ideology. The Adam Smith Institute have been named as one of the world’s 10 most influential think tanks, have influenced everyone from Thatcher to Blair, and have been instrumental in pushing through such winners as the privatisation of public transport, the poll tax, and the outsourcing of council utilities to private companies.
First up, “European opposition to US agricultural exports has held up trade talks for years.” This suggests its mean old Europe vindictively slamming the door in plucky America’s face, rather than a basic objection to intensive farming practices that prioritise stacking moolah over, I dunno, mass bird flu epidemics. Banned American scut includes the catchy-as-salmonella sounding chlorinated chicken alongside other bangers such as the massive overuse of antibiotics that are also used on humans – precipitating the creation of an antibiotic resistant superbug. Spoilsport EU!
Moving on -
“the government will send a signal to potential trading partners across the globe that the UK remains an open-facing and free trading nation.”
ie, the government will send a signal to potential trading partners across the globe that we will accept literally any old shite you want to palm off because we’ve got no mates in Europe, no bargaining power, and no hope. Send us your thalidomide guys, we’re ready.
“In return, the UK may benefit from better terms of trade with the US. Perhaps this would be in the form of “passporting” rights for Britain’s financial institutions… British trade negotiators should be authorised to approach US trade talks willing to concede ground on the importation of chemically disinfected chicken, in recognition… of the potential advantages to price-sensitive households.”
This is my favourite part. The ASI are explicitly admitting that the only people who are gonna eat this filth are poor people (‘price conscious households’ as they cutely put it) – and exchange for securing the rights to sell cheap poison to dole scum, America will make it easier for people working in the financial industry to make money free of regulation. Lolz! It’s incredible, they’re bargaining with other people’s existence for the chance to make more pointless dosh. You can 100% bet that none of the fuckers in the financial industry are planning on tucking into chlorinated chicken any time soon, but they’re happy for YOU, you dirty gyppo, to feed it to your kid. Better still though, an announced aim – an actually fucking aim of the lifting of regulation is this:
“The US poultry industry is far more efficient than that of its European counterparts, making it well-placed to drive down the cost of chicken meat in a post-Brexit UK…”
How do the prices get driven down? By becoming ‘more efficient’. How do we become ‘more efficient’? By adopting the practices that are currently outlawed (hence the use of the ‘post-Brexit’ proviso). They’re suggesting that all the farmers in the UK will have to jump on dutty US practices simply to survive. Regardless of the deeply concerning health implications of this, financially it’s a belly wound; painful and eventually fatal. Europe aren’t about to drop their regulations on farming techniques, so say goodbye to exporting any of our stock to our closest neighbours (including Ireland). And America won’t want our stock – why would they?. Eventually, as prices are driven down and down by multinationals with the clout to crush small business, you can say goodbye to the UK industry, unable to compete with the American giants. Then your left with an intensive food production complex governed by a soft touch regulatory body that will indulge in all manner of grotesque corner cutting, producing slow release violence on the bodies of any consuming their aggressively marketed product. Aren’t free markets great?
This is what taking back control looks like; selling out all but our richest to be consumed by rapacious American capital. A slow motion war that one side is largely unaware they are fighting.
Let’s finish with another quote from What A Carve Up!
‘It surprises me to hear you say that,’ said Henry, leaning back and loosening his belt with a pleasurable grimace. ‘I’m not a sceptic by nature. If anything I’m an idealist. And besides, I happen to believe what most of the nutritionists are saying at the moment. The difference is that I tend to be heartened rather than alarmed by the social implications…. A whole generation of children from working class or low income families will be eating nothing but crisps and chocolate every day. Which means in the end they’ll grow up physically weaker and mentally slower… A diet high in sugars tends to lead to retarded brain growth, our chaps have proved it.’ He smiled. ‘As every general knows, the secret of winning any war is to demoralize the enemy