Could the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership be sunk off the coast of a new, anti-federalist Europe?
It seems like a natural consequence of the election victories enjoyed by Eurosceptic and far-right parties across the continent – and one of the few reasons to be optimistic about the result.
We don’t have all the information yet, so it is impossible to be sure, but it does seem likely that people who won popular support by emphasising national sovereignty against that of the EU will be against a trade agreement that suppresses nations’ rights to make their own laws, and puts multinational corporations above countries.
Unfortunately UKIP, the British Eurosceptic party that has won 23 seats (so far), seems more likely to support the agreement that would force British workers into lowest-common-denominator working conditions and pay deals, in a betrayal of the populist promises it made to get elected.
Nigel Farage’s campaign took a leaf out of the Conservative Party’s book by hiding some of UKIP’s most unpalatable plans from the electorate; now that he has what he wants, will we see UKIP working to ensure, for example, that National Health Service privatisation is locked into British law? That would require support for TTIP.
If Farage’s party doesn’t support the controversial plan, they’ll probably stay away from the vote (as they do in most matters; UKIP has one of the worst attendance records in the European Parliament).
Of course the European Parliament doesn’t work the same way as the UK Parliament; UKIP may have won the most seats but this does not automatically hand it power – 23 UK seats is only one-third of those available, not a majority, and it will have to join a larger grouping in order to make its voice heard.
UKIP’s choices over the next few days and weeks will be crucial, as they will allow us to form opinions about how the party’s victory will affect life here in the UK.
The Eurosceptic party’s victory – the first time in more than 100 years that an election has been won by someone other than Labour or the Conservatives – means the other British political parties have more soul-searching to do.
Labour came second, defying right-wing pundits on the BBC and elsewhere who were hoping to see “weird” Ed Miliband suffer. But his lead over the Tories is just 1.5 per cent – hardly a ringing endorsement.
Clearly the British people were not convinced by his offer and Labour must revise its position on Europe or prepare to lose the next general election.
A good starting-place for the Party of the Workers would be a promise to halt the flow of migrant workers from EU countries with weaker economies by pushing for a change to the rule allowing free movement between countries – ensuring that this only happens between states that have comparable economies.
This would put an end to the economic opportunism that has caused the perceived flood of migrants from the poorer countries of eastern Europe, and make it possible for British people to get better jobs, offering more working hours – and negotiate for higher pay.
It isn’t rocket science, but Labour has failed to grasp this concept. One has to wonder why. Maybe Labour is still a bit too fond of Conservative-style neoliberalism. Is that it, Ed?
Labour’s problems are nothing compared with those of the Conservative Party. David Cameron wagered that his promise of an in/out referendum on the EU, to take place in 2017, would win him the next UK general election – but this result has shown that the British people don’t believe a word of it.
Rather than be held to ransom by an over-privileged nob, they have turned to an untried party of even more hard-line right-wingers who would probably create worse problems for working Britons than even the Tories, if they were ever elected into office in Westminster.
That is the message David Cameron has to swallow today: We don’t believe him. We don’t trust him. We don’t want him.
Yet his party seems unrepentant. Prominent members have already rejected calls to strengthen the referendum offer, for example.
The loss will make Cameron more likely to seek a deal with UKIP – and one is already in the offing, if we are to believe the denials coming from other leading Tories. This would be to UKIP’s disadvantage as Farage only needs to look at Nick Clegg to see what will happen.
Clegg should be a broken man. Not only have the Liberal Democrats haemorrhaged local councillors, but now he also has to face up to the fact that he has lost all but one of his party’s MEPs.
The BBC said the survival of Catherine Bearder in the South East region prevented a “humiliating wipe-out” – but isn’t the loss of no less than nine MEPs humiliating enough?
Clegg is already facing calls for his resignation amid claims that nobody wants to listen to him any more. This means the turnabout from “I agree with Nick” in 2010 is now complete. Anyone considering going into coalition with the Conservatives (Farage) should pay close attention. The British voter hates traitors.
There is one more matter arising from this result; a fact that you are not likely to hear on the mainstream media, but one that seems increasingly important, considering the demise of the Liberal Democrats.
The Green Party was fourth-placed in this election. Its 1,244,475 (so far) voters mean it had two-sevenths of UKIP’s support, while the Conservative Party – the party in power here in the UK – had only three times as many supporters.
Expect Natalie Bennett and Caroline Lucas to capitalise on this for all they’re worth.
Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike
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