Notes From the Margins…

Vultures in Brexitland

  • June 05, 2019
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As everyone knows, Donald Trump lies as he breathes.  He lies about big things and small things, and he lies about absurd and ridiculous things.   But despite his almost psychopathic dishonesty,  Trump is also a stupid man, and so there are times when he doesn’t lie about the things that you would expect more intelligent politicians to lie about.

Take his press conference yesterday with Theresa May.



At one point a journalist asked him whether the NHS would be part of the ‘great trade deal’ that he keeps promising.  At this point a savvy politician would have made some ambiguous or evasive comment and kicked that one down the road.

Because Trump wants Brexit and he wants Boris Johnson to be the next PM, and telling the country that the US has designs on the NHS is not the best way to achieve these outcomes, because even Tory politicians who lie as much as he does still need to profess their residual loyalty to ‘our NHS’ for appearances’ sake.  But Trump doesn’t understand these dynamics, so we got this:

When you’re dealing on trade, everything is on the table. So NHS or anything else. A lot more than that.

To be fair to the president, he was probably composing his tweet to Bette Midler, so he might not have been fully focused, and he also doesn’t seem to have known what the NHS actually was.

Nevertheless the damage was done.  Even May, who has simpered and groveled in Trump’s presence like a petitioner at the court of the Sun King for the last three years, sensed the tumbleweed blowing through the room and hurriedly added ‘the point about making trade deals is that of course both sides negotiate and come to an agreement about what should or should not be in that trade deal.’

Trump did not look particularly impressed by this affirmation of British independence, and we shouldn’t be either.

Because Trump made clear what anyone who wants to look at reality – admittedly a diminishing number of people in the UK these days – can already see; namely, that the relationship between the US and the UK in any future trade negotiations is going to be a relationship between unequal partners, and the US will use its formidable leverage to impose its own terms, in a massive asset-stripping exercise that will involve not only the NHS, but ‘a lot more than that.’

Tory leadership contenders like Matt Hancock and Jeremy Hunt may insist on their commitment ‘our NHS’ – the better to advance their leadership prospects. But there will be very little they can do in trade negotiations between an aggressive superpower and a mid-ranking country without means or friends.

Today Trump seemed to row back, in an interview with his court sycophant Piers Morgan, for which he had clearly been primed, and said that the NHS would not be up for grabs after all, because the NHS is ‘not trade.’

Trump was back to his default lying position once again.  Because from pharmaceuticals to insurance companies, the NHS certainly will be ‘trade’, and US companies will be looking to profit from it, and Tory politicians who have been carrying out privatisation by stealth will not be able to do anything about it, and will probably not even try.

Don’t expect much defiance from Boris ‘£350 million a week’ Johnson,  or Nigel Farage.

Farage has already made clear that he wants to see the NHS replaced with private insurance.

This is a politician cut from whole Trump cloth, floating on a tide of nationalist demagoguery, fake victimhood and dodgy money.  Farage may or may not have helped his mates get rich by shorting the pound on referendum day, and this is not a man you turn to protect an institution that symbolizes the best hopes of the post-1945 welfare settlement,  against predatory American pharmaceutical or insurance corporations.

Like attracts like, and no one should be surprised at the fact that Mike Greene, the Brexit Party’s millionaire candidate in the Peterborough bye-election, has made a fortune from buying and selling freeholds on new homes.   Greene is also a member of Greybull Capital, a private equity company which has been involved in a series of business failures, including British Steel, which it bought for £1 in 2016.

A former City minister told the BBC ‘ Greybull has a record of owning businesses which fail, but where apparently Greybull does not lose serious money.  In fact, from a number of its failed investments, it’s made money.’

Greene, Farage, Tice, Banks – these are the patriots who are helping us to ‘change politics for good’, and you can bet that, like Trump, all of them will be looking to make money out of Brexit.

To our everlasting shame, we have allowed ourselves to be taken by a gang of spivs.

And if Brexit goes ahead,  ‘our NHS’ will stand as much chance of survival as a dying animal circled by vultures, in a foolish nation that got its sovereignty back only to turn itself into  carrion.



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About Me

I’m a writer, campaigner and journalist.  My latest book is The Savage Frontier: The Pyrenees in History and the Imagination (New Press/Hurst, 2018).  The Infernal Machine is where I write on politics, history, cinema and other things that interest me.

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