Shanker Singham is a US lobbyist who became a prominent figure in UK politics after the Brexit referendum. He is a close adviser of former Department for Exiting the EU Secretary of State David Davis and the department’s minister Steve Baker, and has worked for two think tanks that form part of a network of groups lobbying for a hard Brexit based out of offices on Tufton Street.
Singham is Director of the International Trade and Competition Unit at the Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA) — a free-market think-tank based at 55 Tufton Street, which is a hub for right-leaning organisations including climate science deniers, the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF).
He was formerly at the Legatum Institute, described by openDemocracy as “the Brexiteers' favourite think tank”, which has been found to have breached the charity commission rules on its Brexit work. Like the IEA, Legatum also has strong ties to the Tufton Street network.
Singham was also a member of an “expert committee” advising International Trade Secretary Liam Fox on trade.
The IEA plays a leading role among a group of 80 organisations worldwide advocating similar aims. The Atlas Economic Research Foundation and the International Policy Network which are part of the IEA’s network are also known to spread climate science denial.
It was recently embroiled in a cash for access scandal when undercover recordings were published showing IEA director Mark Littlewood claiming Singham and his team speak with Gove “every three or four days, along with David Davis, Boris Johnson, Liam Fox”. Littlewood acknowledged he was sometimes used as a “slight shill” to cover Singham’s meetings with Baker.
Both the IEA and the Legatum Institute were named among a group of transatlantic organisations set to held “shadow trade talks” in a bid to significantly weaken existing regulation.
As of 2015, Singham was listed in the climate science denying campaign group 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”.
Singham was reportedly the architect of a proposal for a Canada-style trade deal between the UK and EU, touted as an “alternative Brexit plan” by former Brexit Secretary of State David Davis. The plan is seen as a key part of the strategy for MPs and policymakers that support a hard Brexit and reject Prime Minister Theresa May’s compromise Chequer’s plan.
Singham arranged for members of a US think tank with an interest in reducing regulations around chlorinated chicken to meet UK politicians.
Unearthed obtained recordings of IEA director Littlewood claiming Singham and his team speak with Gove “every three or four days, along with David Davis, Boris Johnson, Liam Fox”.
It claims Singham organised for Michael Carnuccio, CEO of the E Foundation, an Oklahoma-based thinktank, to meet former Brexit minister Steve Baker and other members of the influential alliance of Euro-skeptic Tory MPs, the European Research Group, including Jacob Rees-Mogg.
The Unearthed investigation claims Carnuccio compared Singham to George Clooney’s well-connected “fixer” character in the movie Michael Clayton: “Shanker is like that but for trade and economics and everything else, they all just seem to call him or want to talk to him to, like, figure out how to get things done.”
The Department for International Trade is embroiled in a scandal with Singham at the centre after OpenDemocracy revealed that he had begun advising PR and lobbying firm Grayling about Brexit. Singham was at the same time member of International Trade Secretary 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 — DeSmog UK mapped all the connections.
Singham visits the US to work on a post-Brexit trade deal with Matthew Elliott — former Chief Executive of Vote Leave, editor-at-large of Brexit Centraland founder of Tufton Street resident the Taxpayers’ Alliance.
Singham leaves the Legatum Institute to head up the International Trade and Competition Unit at the Institute of Economic Affairs, a member of the Tufton Street network lobbying for a hard Brexit and pushing climate science denial.