Noone knows what’s going on with Brexit — but recent reports show that if you can pretend to, you could get some serious access to the UK government. And the panic around Brexit is affording a unique opportunity for a range of nefarious lobbying interests, including climate science deniers.
One of the recently connected lobbyists is Shanker Singham, formerly of the flavour of the month Brexit thinktank, the Legatum Institute, and now of the more established establishment outfit, the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA). Singham has strong ties to the US climate science denial lobby, and has slotted neatly into a network of transatlantic climate science deniers pushing for a hard Brexit.
For more information on the key players in Brexit and climate science denial, check out DeSmog UK‘s Disinformation Database
Open Democracy broke the story that Singham had begun advising PR and lobbying firm Grayling about Brexit. This is potentially a problem, as Singham was a member of International Trade Secretary and arch-Leaver Liam Fox’s trade advisory team.
Singham said there is no conflict of interest, but stepped down from his trade advisory role anyway. But that wasn’t before using his position to get privileged access to a myriad of government departments and ministers — OpenDemocracy got the scoop, and DeSmog UK has mapped all the connections:
Singham’s Washington lobbying past means that — once again — Brexit has afforded an opportunity for climate science denial interest groups on both sides of the Atlantic to gain access to the UK government.
To start with, as of 2015, Singham was listed in the Heartland Institute website’s “expert search”, which contains “staff, managing editors, senior fellows, and policy advisors (unpaid volunteers) to The Heartland Institute, as well as persons affiliated with other think tanks who have agreed to be identified as topic area experts for Heartland”.
The institute has received at least $676,500 from ExxonMobil since 1998 but no longer discloses its funding sources. The Union of Concerned Scientists found that “nearly 40% of the total funds that the Heartland Institute has received from ExxonMobil since 1998 were specifically designated for climate change projects.”
Singham’s Legatum colleague, Alden Abbott, also has ties to US climate science deniers. He was a Deputy Director at The Heritage Foundation, and had report for that organisation hosted on website of the Heartland Institute.
The Heritage Foundation sits at the heart of a transatlantic network of lobbyists pushing climate science denial and for a hard Brexit, which DeSmog UK has previously mapped.
The group has particularly strong links to International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, who met with the Legatum Institute in February 2017.
Singham’s current IEA affiliation also ties him to a network of climate science deniers and anti-regulation campaign groups in the heart of Westminster, working out of 55 Tufton Street.
One of these, the Taxpayers’ Alliance, was set up by Matthew Elliott, former Vote Leave chief and now a member of Legatum.
The GWPF counts current MP for Shropshire Owen Paterson among its allies. Paterson has also had an all expenses paid trip to speak at The Heritage Foundation in March 2015, and has subsequently been invited to speak at other anti-regulation US thinktanks.
Hintze is also a backer for Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who has a notoriously shaky understanding of climate science in part due to his fondness for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s brother and rogue weatherman, Piers Corbyn.
Another of the Tufton Street organisations, The New Culture Forum, counts Environment Secretary Michael Gove among its advisory board. Despite Gove’s seeming conversion to being a Blue-Green, he has a patchy record when it comes to climate policy. He met with Singham in June 2017, and the Legatum Institute in December 2017.
Gove, Johnson and Hintze were all members of Fox’s doomed transatlantic thinktank, The Atlantic Bridge.
In 2007, the group established a special partnership with free-market lobby group the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), known for producing template pieces of legislation that reduce protections for the environment and other anti-regulation efforts. The group operated until September 2011 when it was dissolved following a Charity Commission investigation that found it was engaged in overtly political work, which was against its rules.
Gove, Paterson, and Fox are also members of the notorious European Research Group, pushing for a hard Brexit within the Tory Party. Another GWPF ally, former MP and now member of the House of Lords, Baron Peter Lilley, is also a member of the group.
The connections show just how much crossover there is between those pushing for a hard Brexit, and those pushing climate science denial in the name of the free market.
It’s the same people, again and again.
Updated: 16/07/2018: The relationships between Alden Abbott, Shanker Singham and the Heartland Institute were clarified and corrected.