Calls for probe after media uncovers US funding of UK's think tanks vocal on Brexit
The “analysis” carried out by the Guardian paper established that the US fundraising bodies, which provide donations to the British think tanks, had received $5.6 million (£4.3 million) since 2008.
This money was used to support four UK organizations – the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), the Adam Smith Institute, Policy Exchange and the Legatum – that played and keep playing a key role in the Brexit debate.
Those conservative think tanks have been advocating free trade deals with less governmental control, which is a stance “likely to benefit big American businesses” that oppose the EU tight regulations, imposed after the 2008 financial crisis, the Guardian wrote.
Earlier this week, the IEA released a paper that insisted that Britain should cover its losses from Brexit by striking radical free trade agreements with the US and other countries.
According to the authors, such accords should soothe controls on hedge funds and banks; reduce taxes; open all UK services, including healthcare, to foreign competition; as well as abolish many of the EU regulations in data protection, pharmaceuticals, food safety and other areas.
Despite such publications, the think tanks insist that they remain impartial and take no specific angle regarding Britain's future within the EU and its relations with the block, the paper wrote.
The Guardian said that the exact sums received by the IEA, the Adam Smith Institute, Policy Exchange and the Legatum from the US were “unclear” as the think tanks have a policy on not disclosing their donors due to privacy reasons.
However, the paper added that its report “leaves the think tanks facing questions as to whether wealthy Americans have undue influence in British politics, particularly over the form Brexit takes.”
And the questions are already being asked, with Labour MP and Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, John McDonnell, taking to Twitter to demand an “independent inquiry” into the foreign funding of the think tanks as well as their links to the UK's ruling Conservative Party.
It’s clear from this evidence that we need an independent inquiry into the foreign funding of right wing political groups in this country and the role, aims, & influence of these organisations, including their links to the Conservative politicians & Party. https://t.co/JIxts9N4MP— John McDonnell MP (@johnmcdonnellMP) September 28, 2018
He was echoed by other users, who sounded the alarm over what they called “foreign meddling” in British politics and urged the practice to be curbed.
Now there's a surprise! Weren't we up in arms a short while ago about foreign meddling in our political system? https://t.co/30oBapXeX8— John Spiers (@squeezyjohn) September 29, 2018
I agree with @johnmcdonnellMP. We should have an investigation into this. https://t.co/3eqAgCWSO0 Now, presumably he agrees we should also have an investigation into funding links of Left-wing groups like Stop The War.— (((Dan Hodges))) (@DPJHodges) September 29, 2018
Corporate interests and wealthy individuals shouldn't be able to shape debate anonymously so when who pays the piper might call the tune let all "think tanks" be required to disclose funding sources https://t.co/ft08QKNPJC— Kevin Maguire (@Kevin_Maguire) September 29, 2018
something needs to be done about all this foreign meddlinghttps://t.co/upKFV3Fr0a— Blurry Cat Face (@therealBCF) September 29, 2018
Quite a number of #Leave voters are also conspiracy theorists believing they're resisting a global elite— Matthew Green #FBPE (@MatthewGreen02) September 29, 2018
Irony is that if there is a global conspiracy it's more likely to be a right-wing one seeking to manipulate those who succumb to conspiracy theorieshttps://t.co/wU8MQJ9Z9H
Some commentators pointed out that the media's focus should switch from scary stories about Russian hackers and Moscow’s alleged interference into Western electoral process to attempts by the US to influence other countries.
As one British expat in Europe put it: «While some people are fixated by Russia f**king around in the digital space Americans are f**king around on the ground. It's the Americans who get their interests represented day in day out in this way, by penetrating the media.»
Following accusations against Russia in the US, politicians in the UK followed suit and tried to blame the Kremlin for Brexit, saying that it influenced the voters through Facebook and social media.
However, the claims turned out to be unsubstantiated, with Facebook itself saying earlier this year that the probe only revealed “minimal activity” on the part of Russia-linked pages during the vote on Britain's future in the EU.
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