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Theresa May is delivering the Ukip 2015 manifesto

The prime minister is committed to leaving the EU, stopping immigration, bringing back grammar schools, and other familiar policies.

If you thought Theresa May’s government was Ukip-lite in rhetoric, just take a look at its policies. The Prime Minister is essentially delivering the top lines of the Ukip 2015 manifesto.

A source involved in writing Ukip’s general election manifesto admits to me that the Prime Minister has “very much shot the Ukip fox” – citing grammar schools, and her “direct approach to the markets and controlling immigration.”

Can that be true? And, if so, does it explain why Ukip foundered in Stoke? When visiting the constituency ahead of the by-election, it was clear that rerunning the EU referendum was central to the party’s campaign – and it didn’t work. Ukip appears to be losing traction with voters because the Conservative government is already delivering its key policies. Why vote for a party pledging policies that are already being implemented?

I looked back at Ukip’s 2015 manifesto to find out how much the Tories have borrowed:

The EU

What Ukip pledged:

“Leave the EU.”

What Theresa May’s doing:

She is taking Britain out of the EU.

Immigration

What Ukip pledged:

“Take back control of our borders.”

What Theresa May’s doing:

Immigration control is a “red line” for the Prime Minister, who, by taking the UK out of the single market, is clearly prepared to take the financial hit in order to bring down the number of migrants.

What Ukip pledged:

“End welfare tourism with a five-year embargo on benefits for migrants.”

What Theresa May’s doing:

The Prime Minister is using Brexit to pursue the idea, first mooted by David Cameron, of stopping newly arrived migrants from the EU claiming tax credits and other in-work benefits. This would bring them into line with the welfare rights of non-EU migrants.

What Ukip pledged:

“Introduce a new visa system for workers, visitors, students, families and asylum seekers.”

What Theresa May’s doing:

In October last year, May ordered a cabinet taskforce to draw up plans for a new “targeted visa system”, tasking ministers with coming up with a scheme to cut migration numbers but ensure the UK isn’t left with a shortage of workers.

NHS

What Ukip pledged:

“End ‘health tourism’ by making sure those ineligible for free NHS care pay for treatment.”

What Theresa May is doing:

Jeremy Hunt’s new law forces hospitals to deny non-emergency treatment to any “foreign patient” who cannot produce identity documents proving their right to free care. Such patients who are not eligible for free, non-emergency treatment will be charged upfront – NHS staff will be issued with credit card readers to take payments before beginning treatment.

Education

What Ukip pledged:

“Bring back grammar schools.”

What Theresa May’s doing:

She’s bringing back grammar schools. In his Budget, the Chancellor Philip Hammond is setting aside £320m for expanding the government’s free school programme, which can now include selective education.

Energy

What Ukip pledged:

“End subsidies for wind farms.”

What Theresa May’s doing:

Because of lack of government funding, investment in renewables looks to fall 95 per cent over the next three years.

It wasn’t May’s policy, but she is carrying on with the decision to end onshore wind subsidies, and also slashing subsidies for other renewable energy sources. She even nearly pulled the plug on the Hinkley C nuclear power project.

What Ukip pledged:

“Support ‘fracking’ for shale gas.”

What Theresa May’s doing:

Theresa May was already a fracking fan before she became PM, having voted against an 18-month fracking ban and additional regulation. Indeed, she has changed fracking policy to include a new fund that could deliver as much as £10m to each community where wells are sited. A policy leading to accusations that she’s trying to “bribe and silence” the public into accepting fracking.

Economy

What Ukip pledged:

“Allow British businesses to choose to employ British workers first.”

What Theresa May’s doing:

The Home Secretary Amber Rudd tried to bring in a law by which businesses would have to publish lists of their foreign-born workers, but it was met with such hostility from employers that the government u-turned on the idea.

What Ukip pledged:

“Raise the personal tax allowance to at least £13,000, taking those on minimum wage out of tax altogether.”

What Theresa May’s doing:

This one dates back to the Lib Dems in coalition, but the Prime Minister is continuing it with gusto – Hammond increased the tax-free income threshold in the Autumn Statement last year; the personal allowance will rise £500 to £11,500 for the 2017-18 tax year.

Foreign affairs

What Ukip pledged:

“Foster closer ties with the Anglosphere.”

What Theresa May’s doing:

The Prime Minister’s lack of criticism of Donald Trump, particularly the Muslim travel ban, caused dismay among many who believe she is appeasing the authoritarian and racist policies of the new US President.

Justice

What Ukip pledged:

“Insist on there being one law for all – British law.”

What Theresa May’s doing:

She has vowed to take the UK out of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

Welfare

What Ukip pledged:

“Limit child benefit to two children for new claimants.”

What Theresa May’s doing:

OK, again, not her policy, but she’s carrying on with it – child tax credits and the child benefit through universal credit is now capped at two children for any new claimant after 6 April 2017.

***

There are plenty more proposals in that manifesto that have not yet found a home in government. Policies Theresa May could yet nick include:

Abolishing inheritance tax.

An Australian-style points-based system for immigration.

All migrants and foreign visitors to have their own health insurance.

Stopping child benefit being paid to children who don’t live here permanently.

Ending sex education in primary schools.

Restrict the Right-to-Buy and Help-to-Buy schemes to British nationals.

Repealing the 2008 Climate Change Act.

Scrapping our opt-in to the European Arrest Warrant.

Give a national referendum on the issue of greatest importance to the British public every two years on the most popular petition with over two million signatures.

Ending the use of multilingual formatting on official documents.

Pulling funding from public bodies promoting multiculturalism.

It seems both the country and Ukip would benefit from May finding a different source for her policy-making.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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A Fox among the chickens: why chlorinated poultry is about more than what's on your plate

The trade minister thinks we're obsessed with chicken, but it's emblematic of bigger Brexit challenges.

What do EU nationals and chlorinated chickens have in common? Both have involuntarily been co-opted as bargaining chips in Britain’s exit from the European Union. And while their chances of being welcomed across our borders rely on vastly different factors, both are currently being dangled over the heads of those charged with negotiating a Brexit deal.

So how is it that hundreds of thousands of pimpled, plucked carcasses are the more attractive option? More so than a Polish national looking to work hard, pay their taxes and enjoy a life in Britain while contributing to the domestic economy?

Put simply, let the chickens cross the Atlantic, and get a better trade deal with the US – a country currently "led" by a protectionist president who has pledged huge tariffs on numerous imports including steel and cars, both of which are key exports from Britain to the States. However, alongside chickens the US could include the tempting carrot of passporting rights, so at least bankers will be safe. Thank. Goodness. 

British farmers won’t be, however, and that is one of the greatest risks from a flood of "Frankenfoods" washing across the Atlantic. 

For many individuals, the idea of chlorinated chicken is hard to stomach. Why is it done? To help prevent the spread of bacteria such as salmonella and campylobacter. Does it work? From 2006-2013 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported an average of 15.2 cases of salmonella per 100,000 people in the US (0.015 per cent) – earlier figures showed 0.006 per cent of cases resulted in hospitalisation. In 2013, the EU reported the level at 20.4 cases per 100,000, but figures from the Food Standards Agency showed only 0.003 per cent of UK cases resulted in hospitalisation, half of the US proportion.

Opponents of the practice also argue that washing chickens in chlorine is a safety net for lower hygiene standards and poorer animal welfare earlier along the line, a catch-all cover-up to ensure cheaper production costs. This is strongly denied by governing bodies and farmers alike (and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, who reignited the debate) but all in all, it paints an unpalatable picture for those unaccustomed to America’s "big ag" ways.

But for the British farmer, imports of chicken roughly one fifth cheaper than domestic products (coupled with potential tariffs on exports to the EU) will put further pressure on an industry already working to tight margins, in which many participants make more money from soon-to-be-extinct EU subsidies than from agricultural income.

So how can British farmers compete? While technically soon free of EU "red tape" when it comes to welfare, environmental and hygiene regulations, if British farmers want to continue exporting to the EU, they will likely have to continue to comply with its stringent codes of practice. Up to 90 per cent of British beef and lamb exports reportedly go to the EU, while the figure is 70 per cent for pork. 

British Poultry Council chief executive Richard Griffiths says that the UK poultry meat industry "stands committed to feeding the nation with nutritious food and any compromise on standards will not be tolerated", adding that it is a "matter of our reputation on the global stage.”

Brexiteer and former environment minister Andrea Leadsom has previously promised she would not lower animal welfare standards to secure new trade deals, but the present situation isn’t yet about moving forward, simply protecting what we already have.

One glimmer of hope may be the frozen food industry that, if exporting to the EU, would be unable to use imported US chicken in its products. This would ensure at least one market for British poultry farmers that wouldn't be at the mercy of depressed prices, resulting from a rushed trade deal cobbled together as an example of how well Britain can thrive outside the EU. 

An indication of quite how far outside the bloc some Brexiteers are aiming comes from Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson's current "charm" offensive in Australasia. While simultaneously managing to offend Glaswegians, BoJo reaffirmed trading links with the region. Exports to New Zealand are currently worth approximately £1.25bn, with motor vehicles topping the list. Making the return trip, lamb and wine are the biggest imports, so it’s unlikely a robust trade deal in the South Pacific is going to radically improve British farmers’ lives. The same is true of their neighbours – Australia’s imports from Britain are topped by machinery and transport equipment (59 per cent of the total) and manufactured goods (26 per cent). 

Clearly keeping those trade corridors open is important, but it is hard to believe Brexit will provide a much-needed boon for British agriculture through the creation of thus far blocked export channels. Australia and New Zealand don’t need our beef, dairy or poultry. We need theirs.

Long haul exports and imports themselves also pose a bigger, longer term threat to food security through their impact on the environment. While beef and dairy farming is a large contributor to greenhouse gases, good stock management can also help remove atmospheric carbon dioxide. Jet engines cannot, and Britain’s skies are already close to maximum occupancy, with careful planning required to ensure appropriate growth.

Read more: Stephen Bush on why the chlorine chicken row is only the beginning

The global food production genie is out of the bottle, it won’t go back in – nor should it. Global food security relies on diversity, and countries working and trading together. But this needs to be balanced with sustainability – both in terms of supply and the environment. We will never return to the days of all local produce and allotments, but there is a happy medium between freeganism and shipping food produce halfway around the world to prove a point to Michel Barnier. 

If shoppers want a dragon fruit, it will have to be flown in. If they want a chicken, it can be produced down the road. If they want a chlorinated chicken – well, who does?