IEA's Plan A+: Pure Evil

IEA's Plan A+: Pure Evil

IEA’s Plan A+: Pure Evil


The Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), which describes itself as ‘UK's original free-market think tank’ has published a plan for Brexit. Whichever way you voted in the referendum in 2016, you’re not going to like it. 

What is the IEA? Who pays for it? Good question. ‘Who Funds You’, the UK campaign for think tank transparency, rates the IEA as ‘E’ – the most opaque category possible. Who pays the IEA piper and therefore calls the tune? We simply don’t know.  

In the past the IEA has been rumbled: it took money from the giant tobacco companies and campaigned against public health policies such as plain packaging on cigarettes and higher taxation on tobacco products, presumably in the interests of ‘freedom of choice’. The IEA, when found out, argued that this was the purest coincidence. 

The IEA is registered as a charity. It has never been engaged in any charitable works since its foundation in 1955. In fact it is a lobbying group.  As such it should be banned from the airwaves and yet the BBC continually hosts IEA spokespersons as genuine contributors to democratic debate. In fact the IEA is financed by dark money, a threat to democracy. 

The Charity Commission has demanded that the IEA remove Plan A+ from its website for breaking rules on political campaigning. All the same we can see from Plan A+ what kind of Brexit the IEA wants in order to fight against their insidious lobbying. 

The IEA campaigns under the slogan of ‘free competition’. For instance they oppose the EU’s data protection rules (GDPR) which try to ensure our privacy as ‘anti-competitive’. They support the right of the tech companies to harvest data which we unwittingly supply by using their platforms. That data can then be used against us. When did we agree to that? The tech giants have enormous power and the freedom to use it, but ‘freedom for the pike is death for the minnow.’ 

Making sure that products are safe for the consumer is, according to the IEA, another form of ‘burden on business.’ Right wing ideologues prate about ‘consumer sovereignty’, but in practice they are happiest when big business leaves us completely in the dark as to what we’re actually consuming. Yet the IEA website parrots, “Consumers, not big corporations, should run the show.” 

Plan A+ goes on. Why should pharmaceutical companies have to prove their products are safe through clinical trials, poor souls, before they impose them on the rest of us? Much better to let them rip us off by extending the patent protection for their drugs. 

Whatever our view of the institutions of the European Union, Labour insists that leaving should not lead to a bonfire of rules regarding workers’ rights, consumer standards and protection  of the environment. We insist that safeguards of our interests written into EU law be retained as we leave. Yet trashing these protections is precisely what the IEA’s Plan A+ is designed to achieve, and that is the hidden agenda as to why many right wing Tories support Brexit. 

Not a single person in Britain has raised the cry for us to consume chlorinated chicken or hormone pumped beef. Yet that is what a US-UK free trade deal is likely to impose on us. We have raised an outcry against genetically modified organisms, opposed the clandestine pumping of chemicals into food and insisted on nutritional labelling. To Trump and the IEA, standards that safeguard us as consumers count as ‘protectionism.’ The IEA is acting in practice as a cheer leader for the Trump administration. Trump has shown quite clearly that his idea of a deal is when the stronger party stuffs the weaker one. Don’t let it happen to British consumers! 

As slavish lackeys of big business the IEA is using Brexit to privatise everything in sight in order to stimulate competition of course. For instance: “Health services are an area where both sides would benefit from openness to foreign competition, although we recognize any changes to existing regulations will be extremely controversial....That said, we would envisage a swift, time-tabled implementation of recognition across all areas within 5 years.” 

Health care has already been opened up to the private sector. One result: Virgin Care has sued the NHS because it lost a contract for children’s services in Surrey. We can see what the tax-dodging billionaire Branson gets out of it, but what about the rest of us? 

The IEA wants to go further: “ Perhaps, then, for other areas [ of privatisation] the initial focus should be on other fields such as education or legal services, where negotiators can test the waters and see what is possible.”

 Plan A+ gives a welcome to the banks, you know the banks that helped to crash the world economy ten years ago. It cost us as taxpayers around £1 trillion to bail out these corporate bums, and millions of working class people have not seen their standard of living recover since. The IEA argues that capital requirements on the banks should be cut. In the years before the Great Recession of 2008 the banks were betting on insanely thin margins. Tighter requirements were imposed after the crash in the interests of the continued survival of the capitalist system itself. Plan A+ is madness. 

The IEA may have been forced to remove Plan A+ from its website, but it’s still there, exerting its malign influence on the minds of far right politicians. Socialists must be vigilant and fight to stop them making Brexit a race to the bottom.

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