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29 Sep, 2018 21:04

Calls for probe after media uncovers US funding of UK's think tanks vocal on Brexit

Calls for probe after media uncovers US funding of UK's think tanks vocal on Brexit

The public is demanding an investigation after a report that British think tanks, advocating Brexit, received lavish funding from American donors.

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.

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.

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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