Shanker Singham


Shanker Singham

Credentials

  • J.D., University of Miami, (1996). [1]
  • Law Society Finals, Guildford College of Law, (1992). [1]
  • C.P.E. Guildford College of Law (1992). [1]
  • M.A., Balliol College, University of Oxford (1990). [1]

Background

Shanker Singham is a former US lobbyist who became a prominent figure in UK politics after the 2016 EU referendum. [2], [3]

Singham has been described in the media as the “Brexiteers’ brain” for his close ties and “unparalleled access” to senior Eurosceptic politicians and ministers, including Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Steve Baker, Liam Fox and David Davis. [4], [5]

Singham was named a member of a newly-established Trade and Agriculture Commission in July 2020, advising International Trade Secretary Liz Truss on trade policies designed to maintain a “competitive” farming sector and high animal welfare and environmental standards. [9]

Singham has worked for two thinktanks with close ties to a network of groups lobbying for a deregulatory, “hard” Brexit based in and around offices at 55 Tufton Street in Westminster. He is a Fellow of International Trade and Competition at the free-market Institute of Economic Affairs, having formerly been Director of its International Trade and Competition Unit. [6], [7]

Prior to starting at the IEA in March 2018, Singham was Director of Economic Policy and Prosperity Studies at the Legatum Institute. He also headed Legatum’s “Special Trade Commission”, which was set up in July 2016, to “present a roadmap” for post-Brexit trade talks. [4], [10], [11]

Legatum has been described by openDemocracy as “the Brexiteers' favourite think tank and was found to have breached Charity Commission rules with its Brexit work in 2018. Former Chief Executive of Vote Leave and the TaxPayers’ Alliance, Matthew Elliott, worked as a Legatum Senior Fellow in the year after the EU referendum. [12], [13], [14]

Singham was a member of an “expert committee” set up to advise former International Trade Secretary Liam Fox “on matters related to trade and investment” but was forced to resign due to a part-time role at PR and lobbying firm, Grayling. Other members included Ruth Lea, a Trustee of the GWPF, and Lord Lilley, a former Trustee. [15], [16]

As recently as 2015, Singham was listed as an “expert” on a now-deleted webpage of the US-based climate science denying campaign group the Heartland Institute. The website’s “Expert Search” contained “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.” [17]

Singham is Chair of the recently-established pro-Brexit-related news and commentary website, Global Vision. Despite sharing a name, the website has no formal association with the Eurosceptic campaign group directed by Ruth Lea and based at 55 Tufton Street[8]

Stance on Climate Change

Singham does not appear to have publicly voiced his views on climate change.

Key Quotes

May 11, 2020

In a comment article on farming, written for the Global Vision website, Singham wrote: [18]

In the area of agriculture, the EU is embarked on a Dante like journey ever deeper into the hell of protectionism. Its rules are diverging ever more dramatically from sound science.  The PM recognised this when later in the speech, turning on critics of the US deal, he said: “But I must say to the America bashers in this country if there are any that in doing free trade deals we will be governed by science and not by mumbo-jumbo because the potential is enormous.” [18]

October 2017

While with the Legatum Institute, Singham said in an interview with BBC Newsnight: [19]

We should be an independent, sovereign nation from Day One of Brexit.

…We also need to take control of our regulatory environment so it can be improved. At the same time, we can make bilateral deals with countries like the US. We can join with large regional groupings like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.” [19]

Key Deeds

July 2020

Singham was named a member of a newly-established Trade and Agriculture Commission in July 2020, advising International Trade Secretary Liz Truss on trade policies designed to maintain a “competitive” farming sector and high animal welfare and environmental standards. Singham’s affiliation with the IEA was originally disclosed by the government but was later removed from their press release. [9], [20]

The Department for International Trade declined to answer questions about the change when contacted, while the IEA said Singham and another affiliate of the thinktank, Sir Lockwood Smith, had not joined “in an IEA capacity”. [20]

The composition and parameters of the commission drew criticism from environmental and animal welfare groups, with the major environmental coalition, Greener UK, stating that the commission’s membership raised “serious questions over its ability to address environmental issues.” [21], [22]

September 2018

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 then Brexit Secretary David Davis. The plan was seen as a key part of the strategy adopted by MPs and policymakers who supported a hard Brexit and rejected then Prime Minister Theresa May’s compromise “Chequers plan”. A Canada-style deal would remove most tariffs to trade with the EU, which has dismissed the option as unlikely. [23], [24], [25]

July 2018

Singham arranged for members of a US think tank in favour of reducing regulations around chlorinated chicken to meet UK politicians, according to an investigation by Greenpeace’s investigative unit Unearthed. [26], [27]

Unearthed obtained recordings of IEA Director General Mark Littlewood claiming Singham and his team were speaking with then Environment Secretary Michael Gove “every three or four days, along with David Davis, Boris Johnson and Liam Fox.” [28]

Unearthed found that Singham organised for Michael Carnuccio, CEO of the E Foundation, an Oklahoma-based think tank, to meet then Brexit minister Steve Baker and other members of European Research Group, an influential grouping of Eurosceptic Tory MPs previously led by Jacob Rees-Mogg. [27]

According to the investigation, 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.” [26]

June 2018

The Department for International Trade was embroiled in a controversy involving Singham after openDemocracy revealed that he had begun advising PR and lobbying firm Grayling about Brexit, while simultaneously serving as a member of International Trade Secretary Liam Fox's trade advisory team. [15], [29]

Singham said there was no conflict of interest but stepped down from his trade advisory role days later. DeSmog mapped the government departments and ministers he had met with since the Brexit vote. [30]

May 2018

Singham visited the US to work on a post-Brexit trade deal with Matthew Elliott, former Chief Executive of Vote Leave, editor-at-large of Brexit Central and founder of 55 Tufton Street resident the TaxPayers’ Alliance. [31]

March 2018

Singham left the Legatum Institute to head the International Trade and Competition Unit at the Institute of Economic Affairs. [32]

Affiliations

Social Media

Publications

According to his profile at the IEA, Singham has “lectured, written and spoken extensively, including over one hundred articles and book chapters.” He has written regularly for UK conservative news outlets including The Telegraph and Conservative Home. [7]

Resources

  1. Profile,” Competition Policy International. Archived December 14, 2018. Archive.fo URLhttps://archive.fo/OpPZe

  2. Lobbyist Profile: Shanker A Singham,” Open Secrets. Archived July 16, 2020. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/sn3qu

  3. Pippa Crerar. “Shanker Singham: is he the brains of Brexit?” The Guardian, September 23, 2018. Archived December 14, 2018. Archive.fo URLhttps://archive.fo/UbLkV

  4. Alex Spence. “The Definitive Story Of How A Former Washington Lobbyist Became “The Brexiteers’ Brain”,” Buzzfeed, May 22, 2018. Archived July 16, 2020. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/vGhJi

  5. Peter Geoghegan, Jenna Corderoy. “Revealed: New evidence of ‘Hard Brexit svengali’ Shanker Singham’s ‘unparalleled access’ to senior government figures,” Open Democracy, June 14, 2018. Archived July 16, 2020. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/GZjAc

  6. Fellows and Academic Advisors,” IEA. Archived July 16, 2020. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/7u3Jw

  7. ABOUT SHANKER SINGHAM” (PDF), Institute of Economic Affairs, May 16, 2018.

  8. About Us,” Global Vision. Archived July 16, 2020. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/vMZ3P

  9. Trade and Agriculture Commission membership announced,” Gov, July 10, 2020. Archived July 16, 2020. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/P2L8Z

  10. Cynthia O’Murchu, Henry Mance. “Legatum: the think-tank at intellectual heart of ‘hard’ Brexit,” Financial Times, December 4, 2017. Archived July 16, 2020. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/3ONW4

  11. Key Events,” Legatum. Archived July 16, 2020. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/mselV

  12. Peter Geoghegan. “Legatum: the Brexiteers’ favourite think tank. Who is behind them?” openDemocracy, November 26, 2017. Archived December 14, 2018.

  13. Peter Geoghegan. “Legatum breached charity regulations with Brexit work, Charity Commission finds,” Open Democracy, May 31, 2018. Archived July 16, 2020. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/jitQK

  14. Matthew Elliott. “Matthew Elliott says farewell to the Legatum Institute,” Legatum Institute, Friday 11 May, 2018. Archived December 10, 2018. Archive.fo URLhttp://archive.fo/T3f5B

  15. Chloe Farand. “Revealed: Liam Fox's Trade Department is Taking Advice from 'Experts' with Links to Climate Science Denial Networks,” DeSmog, March 22, 2018.

  16. Trade guru Shanker Singham quits over role at lobbying firm,” The Times, June 25, 2018.  Archive.fo URLhttps://archive.fo/7VkAc

  17. Expert Search,” The Heartland Institute. Archived September 12, 2015. Archive.fo URLhttps://archive.fo/aJaCG

  18. Shanker Singham. “Agriculture: The Threats to Global Britain,” Global Vision, May 11, 2020. Archived July 16, 2020. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/HqaUk

  19. Shanker Singham: 'We should be an independent, sovereign nation from Day One of Brexit' - Viewsnight,” YouTube video uploaded by user BBC Newsnight on October 25, 2017. Archived .mp4 on file at DeSmog.

  20. Rachel Sherrington. “Government Appoints Lobbyists with US Agribusiness Ties to Trade and Agriculture Commission,” DeSmog, July 15, 2020.

  21. RSPCA dismisses Trade Commission as ‘Trojan Horse’,” RSPCA, July 10, 2020. Archived July 16, 2020. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/ZRAzm

  22. Our reaction to the membership of the government's Trade and Agriculture Commission, announced this morning,” Tweet by @GreenerUK on July 10, 2020. Retrieved from Twitter.com. Archived July 16, 2020. Archive .png on file at DeSmog.

  23. Catherine Neilan. “David Davis aims to see off Chequers by backing fully fledged 'Alternative Brexit Plan',” City A.M., September 4, 2018. Archived December 15, 2018. Archive.fo URLhttps://archive.fo/w0JM2

  24. What is a ‘Canada-style’ trade deal?BBC News, February 3, 2020. Archived July 16, 2020. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/vADL9

  25. Simon Murphy. “Brexit deal 'a different ball game' to Canada agreement, warns EU,” Guardian, February 19, 2020. Archived July 16, 2020. Archive.fo URL: http://archive.fo/7JUjP

  26. Alice Ross. “How the IEA teamed up with US donors to push for environmental deregulation post-Brexit,” Unearthed, July 30, 2018. Archived December 15, 2018.

  27. Chloe Farand. “How Hard-Brexit Thinktank the Institute for Economic Affairs Helps Climate Science Deniers Push a Deregulation Agenda,” DeSmog, July 31, 2018.

  28. Lawrence Carter and Alice Ross. “A leading think tank brokered access to ministers for US donors looking to influence Brexit,” Unearthed, July 29, 2018. Archived December 15, 2018. Archive.fo URLhttps://archive.fo/6Ffcz

  29. Adam Ramsay and Peter Geoghegan. “Liam Fox caught in fresh 'lobbyists as advisers' scandal,” OpenDemocracyUK, June 21, 2018. Archived December 15, 2018. Archive.fo URLhttps://archive.fo/vWjjf

  30. Mat Hope and Richard Collett-White. “Mapped: How Brexit Lobbyists Give Climate Science Deniers Privileged Access to the UK Government,” DeSmog, July 3, 2018.

  31. Senior Fellow Matthew Elliott recently visited America where he made the case for a strong US-UK trade deal,” Legatum Institute, May 22, 2017. Archived May 31, 2017.

  32. Shanker Singham to head up new Trade Unit at Institute of Economic Affairs,” IEA, March 9, 2018. Archived December 15, 2018. Archive.fo URLhttps://archive.fo/7YRwo

  33. Shanker Singham,” LinkedIn. Accessed December 14, 2018. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmog.

  34. CapX - How high a price will the global economy pay for Trump's tariffs?CEBR, April 4, 2018. Archived July 16, 2020. Archive.fo URLhttp://archive.fo/Ud81i

  35. Babson Global Taps Shanker Singham to Lead Newly Established Competitiveness and Enterprise Development Project,” Babson Global via Cision PR Newswire, September 26, 2013. Archive.fo URLhttps://archive.fo/gVBKE

Other Resources

Photo credit: YouTube/Sky News