This “must read” article first appeared in True Publica on 19th of October 2017. The author draws together powerful strands that suggest there’s more to the chaos surround Brexit negotiations than meets the eye. Is it incompetence or deliberate intention to create a maximum of chaos? There’s only one group that could benefit from such a strategy and that’s the “mega-rich”. Why? Because a “no deal brexit” will cause a spate of bankruptcies and fore sales of assets and the mega- rich are the ones in a position to take control over whatever is under the auctioneer’s hammer.
By Graham Vanbergen: In this truly alarming story I connect three significant articles to show that Brexit, far from being the result of representative democracy, is in fact a campaign of covert intervention by foreign billionaires to bring about economic chaos in Britain in order create the circumstances for making huge profits. This is not the stuff of mere conspiracy theories. Clear evidence has emerged that Brexit was engineered and is already proving to be a catastrophe, as confirmed by the mainstream media frenzy over Theresa May’s political mis-management of the greatest post-war challenge of our time. In part-one (by left leaning, The Guardian newspaper) we see how Brexit really came about and who influenced it. In part-two (by centre newspaper The Independent) we see how opaque and deceptive think tanks have heavily influenced Brexit and in part-three (by right leaning EUReferendum) we see that economic chaos is being planned in a post-Brexit era, who is involved and why. These articles identify the actors behind the current attack on Britain and what has happened to date so far. At the end, the reader should get a sense of the impending disaster being constructed by the super-rich against the people of Britain purely for profit. Just as oil speculators pushed up global energy prices to $145 a barrel just prior to the financial crash in what was termed the London Loophole, and then profited from short bets on the way down – Britain is being set up for a fall where those with big money will ultimately clean up
PART ONE: Carole Cadwalladr from The Guardian wrote a searing piece last May on what really happened in Britain’s EU referendum vote. Her first sentence led the reader into a 7,000 word setting of foreign actors and corporations intent on usurping democracy in Britain. “A shadowy global operation involving big data, billionaire friends of Trump and the disparate forces of the Leave campaign influenced the result of the EU referendum.” The article entitled “The Great British Brexit Robbery: How Our Democracy Was Highjacked” is now the subject of a bitter legal battle between the accused; Cambridge Analytica LLC and SCL Elections Limited and The Guardian newspaper. Several amendments to the article have been made since the original publication in a climate of legal threats. The stakes are very high just for reporting it.
The article went deeply into how technology and data was illegally used in Britain’s EU referendum voting process. One former employee of the main company involved, Cambridge Analytica, confirmed that they were using psychological operations – the same methods the military use to effect mass sentiment change. It’s what they mean by winning ‘hearts and minds’. “We were just doing it to win elections in the kind of developing countries that don’t have many rules.” Except they were doing it in Britain, and at a historical moment for its future.
It is clear from Cadwalladr’s investigation that British democracy was subverted through a covert, far-reaching plan of coordination enabled by US billionaires and she shows how Britain is in the midst of a massive land grab for power by them. These determined individuals bypassed Britain’s electoral laws and swung the margins in favour to Brexit. She also highlights some political activities much closer to home – note the involvement of the DUP, now the balance of power in Theresa May’s government.
“Vote Leave (the official Leave campaign) chose to spend £3.9m, more than half its official £7m campaign budget. As did three other affiliated Leave campaigns: BeLeave, Veterans for Britain and the Democratic Unionist party (DUP), spending a further £757,750. “Coordination” between campaigns is prohibited under UK electoral law, unless campaign expenditure is declared, jointly. It wasn’t”.
The story gets darker as it accuses the British military-industrial complex, old-school Tories, a former parliamentary under-secretary of State for Defence procurement, director of Marconi Defence Systems, and David Cameron’s pro-Brexit former trade envoy – of involvement. Allegations are made that the head of psychological operations for British forces in Afghanistan are in on the game. One alarmingly frank quote says: “SCL/Cambridge Analytica was not some startup created by a couple of guys with a MacBook. It’s effectively part of the British defence establishment” using “military strategies on a civilian population.“
Data, algorithms, micro-ads, emotional manipulation, voter engagement/disengagement, and psyops strategies are just some of the buzz words in use to ensure enough votes go the right way. These strategies are all connected to names such as the aforementioned Cambridge Analytica, but also Robert Mercer, Steve Bannon, AggregateIQ, Leave.EU, Vote Leave, Nigel Farage, the DUP and big financial donors.
“We are in an information war and billionaires are buying up these companies, which are then employed to go to work in the heart of government. That’s a very worrying situation.”
David Miller, a professor of sociology at Bath University and an authority in psyops and propaganda, says it is “an extraordinary scandal that this should be anywhere near a democracy. It should be clear to voters where information is coming from, and if it’s not transparent or open where it’s coming from, it raises the question of whether we are actually living in a democracy or not.”
This all conjures up the characteristics of a great novel, a story that helped to bring about the biggest constitutional change to Britain in a century. In the end, the article concludes that “we, the British people, were played.”
This conclusion is best described by Cadwalladre’s final words. “This is Britain in 2017. A Britain that increasingly looks like a “managed” democracy. Paid for by US billionaires. Using military-style technology. Delivered by Facebook. And enabled by us. If we let this referendum result stand, we are giving it our implicit consent. This isn’t about Remain or Leave. It goes far beyond party politics. It’s about the first step into a brave, new, increasingly undemocratic world.”
Unfortunately, Cadwalladr’s article is not a work of fiction or theory. And if you think that is depressing – that foreign billionaires can usurp Britain’s democracy at will, then it does in fact, get much worse, because obviously there must be reasons why so much time, effort and money has gone into such a dangerous high stakes game in the first place.
PART-TWO – In February 2016, The Independent newspaper published an article about the role of think tanks and Brexit entitled: “EU referendum: Think-tanks conducting ‘independent’ research to support Brexit have close links to Vote Leave.”
Their conclusions revealed that there was a network of right-wing organisations whose staff, board members and even offices were linked to one of the main Leave campaigns, in fact, Vote Leave.
Dr David Green, the chief executive of think tank Civitas, and Ryan Bourne, head of public policy at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), are both listed as supporters of Economists for Britain, a group that was run by Matthew Elliott, who was chief executive of the Leave Campaign (all names you will read about in Part-Three).
Elliot is described as a ‘political strategist and lobbyist’ who was also co-founder of right-wing The Taxpayers Alliance, was campaign director for the successful NOtoAV campaign in the 2011, which left the UK as one of very few modern democracies left with its archaic First-Past-The-Post electoral systems. Elliot was the subject of a lengthy Guardian investigation who described TPA as a right-wing lobby group with close links to the Conservative party. Vote Leave ultimately garnered the support of Boris Johnson and Michael Gove for the Brexit campaign.
Mark Littlewood, the director general of the IEA, was on the editorial board of “Change or Go” – Business for Britain’s 1,000-page “bible” on the case for Brexit.
The multimillionaire hedge fund boss Sir Michael Hintze is a trustee of IEA, and is also on the advisory council of Business for Britain. He has also been linked to Vote Leave.
Vote Leave used reports generated by these think tanks to heavily promote the case for Brexit.
Both Civitas and the IEA insisted that their work was entirely independent of the Brexit campaigns and their organisation reflected a wide range of views.
Daniel Bentley, editorial director at Civitas, said: “Civitas is an independent think-tank which conducts its research without fear or favour. We have no formal links with either Vote Leave or Business for Britain. There is absolutely no evidence, nor can it be reasonably deduced, that Civitas’s work is anything less than robust and accurate. Those claiming otherwise are committed pro-EU campaigners, who self-evidently have an agenda to undermine evidence which conflicts with their position.”
At his point it should be noted that both Civitas and the IEA have been identified by Transparify (who rate the financial transparency of major think tanks), as being ‘highly opaque’ about how they are funded and who by. Transparify went on say the following: “A closer look at the highly opaque institutions on our list confirmed our hypothesis that think tanks that hide their donors usually have something to hide. For example, according to research compiled by TobaccoTactics, the Adam Smith Institute, the Centre for Policy Studies, and the Institute for Economic Affairs have all previously received undisclosed funding from tobacco companies, and all have produced research that was then used to lobby against stronger anti-smoking regulations. We found that the Adam Smith Institute has created a structure so opaque that it concealed not only who gave money, but also who took it, leaving us unable to determine where close to one million pounds given by American donors had ended up. Meanwhile, Policy Exchange has previously used evidence that appears to have been fabricated; the resulting report led to fake news headlines in several media outlets that had naively trusted “research” conducted by an opaque think tank.”
All of these names you will read about in part three.
PART THREE: By adding part one of this story to part two, you will start to gather that all these actors are connected one way or another. Part three identifies yet more actors whose end game is to bring about economic chaos in Britain, one which has been described as “disaster capitalism“, designed to significantly profit from a hard Brexit. “Here, a comparison could be made with Hong Kong, where a similar situation might arise in a UK under the stress of a hard Brexit, where many traditional firms have run for cover, or relocated in the EU, leaving many assets under-priced.”
In other words – Brexit has been engineered to bring about economic chaos for no other reason than making huge profits. Read on…
The Foundation is registered with Company House as a company limited by guarantee. But, according to the 2015 accounts (submitted to the Charity Commissioners in October 2016), the bulk of its income comes from the Legatum Foundation Limited, a company registered in Bermuda.
The Bermuda company in turn is controlled by the Institute’s parent undertakings. The ultimate parent undertaking is the Legatum Partnership LLP, a limited liability partnership registered in Jersey., all of which are offshore tax havens.
The Institute itself is part of the Legatum Group, set up in 2006 by the multi-billionaire New Zealand born Christopher Chandler, formerly president of Sovereign Asset Management.
In the 2015 report to the Charity Commissioners, senior management personnel of the Legatum Institute were listed as Anne Applebaum, Giles Dilnot, Alexandra Mousavizadeh, former newspaper columnist Christina Odone and Shanker Singham, the latter acting as chairman of the Institute’s Special Trade Commission, fronting most of the Brexit propaganda.
Applebaum is firmly on the political right, having been an adjunct fellow of the American Enterprise Institute. She has an extensive career as a journalist, working for the Washington Post, the Daily and Sunday Telegraph and the Economist. She was deputy editor of the Spectator and political editor for the Evening Standard. However, she resigned from the Legatum Institute in 2016, having disagreed with the director over the Institute’s support for Brexit. She now works for the LSE. If Applebaum was described as ‘politically right’ – one can only imagine where Legatum stands.
Currently top of the hierarchy is Philippa Stroud, CEO of the Institute. Previously. She used to be Chief Executive of the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), a right-wing think tank that she co-founded with Iain Duncan Smith in 2004. Prior to the CSJ, she was also Special Adviser to Iain Duncan Smith MP (then Secretary of State for Work and Pensions) from 2010-15. Another of the Legatum Institute directors is Toby Baxendale. He is also on its board of trustees. As to other interests, he was director, alongside co-director Steve Baker, of the now defunct Leadsom4Leader, a limited company set up to support Andrea Leadsom’s Conservative Party leadership bid.
Baxendale is also co-founder, again with Steve Baker, of the Cobden Centre, a free market libertarian think tank that influenced Margaret Thatcher). He also set up the Hayek Visiting Fellowship at the London School of Economics and has been a significant donor to the Conservative Party.
A senior fellow of the Cobden Centre is Professor Kevin Dowd, who is also an honorary fellow of the Institute of Economic Affairs. Dowd is a professor of finance and economics at Durham University and a member of the lobby group, Economists for Free Trade and an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute – an American right-wing think located just down the road to the Whitehouse in Washington DC that is funded by the billionaire Koch brothers. The brothers allegedly spent nearly $900 million dollars trying to influence the outcome of the last presidential race that saw Donald Trump move into the Whitehouse.
The links with the Cobden Centre bring us to Matthew Elliott, who just happens to be a senior fellow of the Legatum Institute (and you thought he was chief executive of the Leave Campaign!). Elliott, founder of the aforementioned Taxpayers Alliance and one-time director of Vote Leave, sits with another Legatum senior fellow Tim Montgomerie, founding editor of Conservative Home and former Times columnist. At the Cobden Centre, he sits on the Advisory Board with Sam Bowman, research director of the Adam Smith Institute (categorised by Transparify as almost the most ‘highly deceptive’ think tank in Britain), Ewen Stewart – a managing board member of the Freedom Association (right-wing pressure group) – and Douglas Carswell.
Yet another senior fellow Legatum Institute is Danny Kruger, former chief speechwriter to David Cameron, chief leader writer at The Daily Telegraph, and director of research at the Centre for Policy Studies (categorized as highly opaque/deceptive think tank by Transparify).
Listed as a Legatum fellow, along with many others, one also finds Graeme Leach, founder and chief economist of Macronomics, a macroeconomic, geopolitical and future megatrends research consultancy he launched in 2016. He is a visiting professor of economic policy, a member of the IEA Shadow Monetary Policy Committee and has a weekly column in the City AM newspaper. Between 1997 and 2013 he worked as Chief Economist and Director of Policy at the Institute of Directors (IoD), where he was also a main board director.
A trustee of Legatum is Richard Briance, the Chairman of PMB Capital Limited, a newly formed merchant banking business and former Chief Executive of Edmond de Rothschild Ltd. Before that, he had been Managing Director of Credit Suisse First Boston Ltd, Vice-Chairman at UBS Ltd and Chief Executive of West Merchant Bank Ltd.
In terms of his other political activities, Briance was a Non-Executive Director at Oxford Analytica from 1999-2010 and he has been a trustee of Policy Exchange, the think tank (categorised as ‘opaque’ by Transparify) created in 2002 by Michael Gove, now environment minister, Nicholas Boles and Francis Maude.
One of the key figures in the Policy Exchange was Lord (James) O’Shaughnessy, formerly Deputy Director. He then worked for the Prime Minister, David Cameron, as his Director of Policy between 2010 and 2011 and for three years (2007-2010) worked in the Conservative Party as Director of Policy and Research. He has now become a senior fellow at the Legatum Institute.
Another network is created with the use of Sian Hansen as chair the Institute’s development committee. Formerly managing director of the Policy Exchange, she went on to become executive director of the Legatum Institute”.
She is also also holds non-executive directorships with JP Morgan Income and Capital Trust PLC, Pacific Assets Trust and EBF International (Shanghai) Ltd.
In October 2016, The Legatum Institute sponsored a report called The Road to Brexit. The foreword was by Iain Duncan Smith, Philippa Stroud’s former boss. Also writing for the report were the MPs John Redwood, Peter Lilley, Owen Paterson and Bernard Jenkin – leading members of the “Ultras”.
As well as Shanker Singham, there were two other authors, Sheila Lawlor and James Arnell. Lawlor directs the economic, education, constitutional and social policy programmes of think tank Politeia who advocates the abolition of the NHS – while Arnell is a partner as Charterhouse, displaying ultra right-wing views on Brexit.
The picture one gets of Legatum, therefore, is of an exceptionally well-endowed think-tank with fingers in many pies and strongly networked with other think-tanks and the media. With offshore finance, though, this is redolent of foreign interference in UK politics.
The greatest concern, though, comes from reading the Legatum website. Having invested heavily in Russia and developing countries, the business speciality is moving into markets at times of crisis where assets are mispriced.
EUReferendum continues: With an eye for emerging trends and undervalued assets, it invested heavily in the telecommunications sector in Brazil, just after the country emerged from hyperinflation. It describes its own “investment heritage” in navigating through choppy markets, following the great financial crisis.
The company takes great pride in its investments in Hong Kong real estate, a market which investors had fled after the signing of the Sino-British Accord, an agreement that promised to give Hong Kong back to the Chinese government. It saw assets mispriced, and noted that “opportunities arise in times of crisis”.
This is a business style which has been described as “disaster capitalism“, which would benefit significantly from a hard Brexit. Here, a comparison could be made with Hong Kong, where a similar situation might arise in a UK under the stress of a hard Brexit, where many traditional firms have run for cover, or relocated in the EU, leaving many assets under-priced.
Looking also for opportunities arising from deregulation and further privatisation – especially in the NHS, with Legatum having considerable healthcare interests – hard Brexit presents multiple opportunities. This, after all, is a business that openly states that it “finds value where disruptive transitions create unique opportunities“.
In this, the Legatum Institute seems to be paving the way for its “parent undertakings”, engineering a “disruptive transition” for Brexit, then to reap the profits from chaos. Its task is assisted by useful fools and fellow travellers on the Tory right. What we have often characterised as incompetence, therefore, may be more sinister. There is money to be made out of a hard Brexit.
Finally, there are others who agree that Brexit on its own is one thing but what is actually happening is something quite different.
Tax Justice Network, (one of the most transparent think tanks in Britain) are very concerned: “It was never quite made clear who would be the major beneficiaries of Brexit. One thing was certain at the time: it wouldn’t be ordinary people. Instead, power is being consolidated by the same old political and economic elites and the state is becoming more, not less, beholden to big business and its demands. These are the real consequences of Brexit.”
It is also becoming clear with this strategy, that a right-wing Tory Brexit will end with huge deregulation. This will be sold to the general public as freedom from the red tape of an EU bureaucracy that Britain escaped, not the public protections put in place over decades to ensure civil society thrives. But as George Monbiot opines; “Ripping down such public protections means freedom for billionaires and corporations from the constraints of democracy. This is what Brexit is all about. The freedom we were promised is the freedom of the very rich to exploit us.”
EUReferedum states in its overall aims for a post-Brexit Britain that: “Within the United Kingdom, our vision is for a government respectful of its people who will take on greater participation and control of their affairs at local and national level. Our vision fosters the responsibility of a sovereign people as the core of true democracy.”
On its current trajectory, Brexit is not going to deliver any of those noble outcomes, unless of course, you happen to be a foreign billionaire with significant interests in the game.