Did you hear the one about Labour and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership?


Apparently somebody said Labour supported this hugely controversial scheme, and lots of people believed it.

In fact, the claim is doubly false. But first, a bit of background: You need to know that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is a ‘free trade’ agreement being negotiated between the European Union and the United States of America. Unfortunately for most of us, the agreement as currently described would end democracy and put us at the mercy of international corporations.

This is because the agreement includes a device called ‘investor-state dispute settlement’ (ISDS), which allows corporate entities to sue governments, overruling domestic courts and the will of Parliaments. You would lose the ability to affect government policy – particularly on the National Health Service; after the Health and Social Care Act, the trade agreement would put every decision relating to its work on a commercial footing. The rights of transnational corporations would become the priority, health would become primarily a trade issue and your personal well-being would be of no consequence whatsoever.

Labour doesn’t want anything to do with an agreement that locks privatisation into the National Health Service, and TTIP – with the ISDS – would do exactly that. So Labour called for the NHS to be exempted from the conditions of the agreement, while remaining in broad support of the negotiations in the belief that the deal promised billions of pounds worth of jobs and economic growth.

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are fully behind TTIP and have ruled out any opt-out for the NHS. The Tories in particular see TTIP as an opportunity to lock-in the privatisation changes they have made to the NHS.

That is the situation that most people believe exists today. They are mistaken.

Labour’s National Policy Forum met at Milton Keynes recently, where a new stance towards TTIP was agreed. Members raised the question of other public services, besides the NHS, that a future Labour government might wish to return to public ownership. With the ISDS in its current form, it would be more or less impossible to return the railways, energy firms and water companies to public ownership in the public interest.

So the current policy is as follows (with thanks to @LabourLewis of the LabourLeft blog): “Labour believes that [the] key to an EU-US trade deal that we would encourage the rest of Europe to support, which avoids a race to the bottom and promotes decent jobs and growth, would be safeguards and progress on labour, environmental, and health and safety standards. Labour has raised concerns over the inclusion of an ISDS mechanism in TTIP. Labour believes that the right of governments to legislate for legitimate public policy objectives should be protected effectively in any dispute resolution mechanisms.” [bolding mine]

This is unlikely to be Labour’s final position as many members believe the party should be even more strongly opposed to the agreement in its current form, as these concluding comments from @LabourLewis affirm: “I believe TTIP represents a free market model of the world economy that has failed the vast majority of us. The last 30 years have shown such a model of capitalism increases inequality and insecurity and leads to more frequent financial crashes.

“Simply tinkering on the margins will not be sufficient. A tad more regulation there, a bit more transparency here, a regulation over there, some restraint on executive pay over here.

“It simply won’t wash and a growing number of us, including our leader Ed Miliband, instinctively understand this.”

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35 thoughts on “Did you hear the one about Labour and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership?

  1. Andy C

    Problem is that whatever Labour wants, as it stands there is no exemption to the TTIP deal on the table. And though MEP John Heeley is talking about there being a possible exemption, unfortunately as confirmed by Andy Burnham and also Unite and there is no such exemption in place – http://www.unitetheunion.org/news/uk-government-confirms-nhs-is-not-exempt-from-controversial-trade-deal/

    But for a big part the only sticking point for Labour is the NHS exemption, Michael Meacher talks about despairing at how a lot of the Labour Party are pro TTIP – http://www.michaelmeacher.info/weblog/2014/03/why-is-labour-not-opposing-ttip-which-gives-multinationals-the-right-to-override-democratic-laws/

    But if the NHS exemption does manage to go through even though it is looking unlikely what about the other aspects of TTIP? The ISDS legal mechanism which folk are correctly focusing on, Mode 4 (I mention below), the degradation in regulations and rights (to create a level “playing field” regulations will be removed so to open the door to the likes of Monsanto et al and going the other way a degradation of the financial regulations that have been established in the US since 2008 but have managed to be avoided here). Unfortunately there is a big element of it depending on who you talk too, but there are Labour folk that have no problems with these elements.

    What ever party talks on whatever platform concerning TTIP before the election there’s a very strong chance that TTIP could get ratified before the next election (I grant that it’s a big ‘could’ and I seriously hope not), because dates of ratification have been quoted as being anything from just past Christmas to July. So I desperately hope that it does not happen before the May election, but this could seriously scupper any election promise or pledge put out by any party concerning TTIP and possibly other election promises too.

    Why I’m posting about this is that we cannot be complacent (I’m not calling you complacent Mike anything but) we need to keep at our MEP’s and MP’s and councilors educate them to what is going on. I’ve been hugely freaked by hearing Linda Kaucher who has been on the case about this for a long time but rammed it home very loud and clear that everyone needs to be not just talking and educating but now shouting from the rooftops about this. (contact details for MPs MEPs can be found here – https://www.writetothem.com/ )

    What I’ve said elsewhere about the Mode 4 part should also concern UKIP and Conservative supporters that are probably browsing your blog

    “I’ve just this week listened to a talk by Linda Kaucher of “Stop TTIP UK”, she pointed out something huge …… we know UKIP is pro TTIP… but wait til UKIP supporters look at the Mode 4 part of TTIP they’ll hate it!!!! It’s a mechanism that’s used in other trade deals and basically it opens national borders and allows companies to shift foreign workers wherever they want thereby undercutting local workers as TTIP will allow companies that do so to get round such things as rights and national restrictions on pay – http://www.politics.co.uk/comment-analysis/2011/09/01/comment-the-secret-immigration-policy-they-tr

    Everyone has rightfully been focusing on the use of ISDS, but the Mode 4 part has been missed, the Cons and UKIP is attacking the EU for a whole variety of reasons immigration being one of the main elements, yet they are 100% behind TTIP… well TTIP uses essentially the same mechanism (Mode 4) that is used in relations with the EU. But instead of just being limited to the EU it will allow workers to travel from all round the world.. For me I have no angle on this (well i do I want to stop TTIP) but I could see how a Conservative or UKIP supporter could feel betrayed by this part of the deal. I would suggest starting to use this when talking with UKIP and Con supporters as if they think things are bad now regarding immigration, boy are they in for a surprise.”

    I apologise for my rant but I am so so so passionate about getting this deal stopped.

    1. Andy C

      some more info

      Linda Kaucher speaking with Max Keiser on the Keiser report about TTIP – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etUJguPSKMw

      Linda Kaucher for StopTTIP campaign – http://stopttip.net/

      on StopTTIP campaign on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/StopTTIPUK

      Linda does a great deconstruction of what was discovered about TTIP here – http://occupylondon.org.uk/information-kit-useu-transatlantic-trade-and-investment-partnership-ttip/

      A deconstruction on Labour’s position by Linda Kaucher especially focusing on what has been said by Andy Burnham and John Healey – https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/linda-kaucher/will-labour-defend-nhs-from-euus-trade-deal

      Her background is up until recently as an international trade researcher at the London School of Economics.

  2. Stephen Bee

    I have to ask again..what can labour do to stop TTIP /ISDS if ConDems vote it through before the next election?

      1. syzygysue

        I sometimes wonder if TTIP is just the trojan horse for the potentially more dangerous TISA which is currently being secretly negotiated in Geneva. TISA parallels TTIP but doesn’t just encompass the US and EU but also all those countries that are negotiating TPP. In effect, the global economy excluding China and Russia.

        Furthermore, there is CETA which was due to be signed last week. This Canadian-EU trade deal would facilitate US health providers etc to sue the UK government from their Canadian subsidiaries using ISDS. The current situation is not at all clear because the Germans are saying that they won’t agree to ISDS being included.

        We need to be fighting these trade deals on all fronts. The global elite are determined to lock us into liberalisation and deregulated markets using international law to override sovereign governments. Democracy is clearly seen as the threat to their maintaining control.

  3. George Berger

    There are several aspects of TTIP that haven’t received much public attention. One is the “Regulatory Coherence” notion, first presented as suggestion for a chapter in the final TTIP document. It was published or leaked *after* most of the critical stuff was. The idea is, that once the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism was formalised in a text presented to EU Member States for ratification, ISDS should be able to me modified *in future*, to meet any new situation. The scary point is that nothing definite is said about how this should be done. So, any ISDS enacted now, can be adjusted at will tomorrow, perhaps without consideration by the EU Parliament or by governing bodies of Member States. Here is the text. It is written so bureaucratically yet so vaguely, as to make the intent hard to discern. It took me two to three days to study it. A lot about this is online: http://corporateeurope.org/sites/default/files/ttip-regulatory-coherence-2-12-2013.pdf .

  4. Jeffrey Davies

    i said it before we traded with each country freely so why do the torys want this other than to feather their nest selling off our rights to companies who could tie up our courts in appeals against strange how they say it good for us jeff3

  5. lallygag26

    I have tried to make an informed comment about TTIP before, Mike, but you have not approved it. Please approve this. If you support Labour that is fine. I only ask that you allow truth to be spoken so that pressure can be maintained on them where they are not living up to their claims. You can’t change Labour’s agenda from inside if you’re not willing to print the truth about their current position.

    Because it is odd, in the light of what you have written, that I, along with a group of very committed anti TTIP protestors, was invited to the House of Commons for the purpose of having the party’s position on TTIP explained by Mary Honeyball , Labour MEP and Andy Burnham, amongst others, and were told a rather different story.

    It was made clear to us that we were to stop fighting the TTIP. We were told that the Labour Party had received a ‘guarantee’ from Bercero, chief negotiator on the TTIP, and Karel de Gucht, European Commissioner, that the NHS was already excluded. In fact the Guardian and Financial Times both published a press release from the LP making this claim. We were told that in the circumstances our continuing fight was a waste of time.

    We had already seen the letter. It makes no such claim.

    We were told that the Labour in Europe group were wholly committed to the TTIP, because of its huge economic benefits for the UK and the EU.

    They repeated the propaganda that everyone would be better off to the tune of £400 as a result of the agreement. They failed to mention that these calculations are, quite literally, invented, that they are projected for 2027, not now, and that there has never, in the history of profit making, been a time when business profits were distributed evenly across a population. Bill Gates being worth $40bn doesn’t put $666 in my pocket, for example.

    We were told that, although there are many ISDS agreements already in place and the UK has not suffered from them, nor was it likely to, the LP were trying to get it modified, as its powers were perhaps too much.

    Unfortunately for the party speakers there were far too many people in the room who know that this is the opposite of the truth. Many groups in Europe are indeed trying to remove or water down the ISDS, not because the ISDS is the issue in itself, but that it is the padlock on the TTIP, which is the real threat – along with the CETA, TPP and TISA.

    The Labour Party is not part of that movement. The notes of the LOTIS group in July (a monthly meeting between City members, attended by the Treasury and the Dept of Business, Skills and Innovation) are explicit that the investment interests of the UK will be jeopardised if the ISDS is weakened. We – or rather the City – are one of the two countries who benefit most from ISDS, because of our extensive market exposure through foreign direct investment.

    In other words ISDS is directly to the benefit of the City, as is TTIP itself. They are concerned that the political leaning across Europe is towards ISDS being weakened or removed. They want that to be stopped. At that meeting it was clear the Labour Party was cooperating with the move to stop protest. And they were lying about the NHS being safe.

    Doesn’t that worry you?

    Your post gives the clear impression that there is a real movement against TTIP within the leadership. That’s, at the very least, debatable.

    If you suppress discussion or debate about this very real issue then you are no longer the champion of truth I have always thought you were.

    Support the Labour Party of course, if that is your choice.

    Just don’t lie on their behalf.

    The CLP of Broxtowe, with the support of other CLPs raised a motion to Conference to put the real issues facing the NHS on the table. It was not accepted as a motion. You should be working with grassroots Labour activists across the country to insist that the interests of the people be at the top of the PLPs agenda, not the interests of the City.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I am not lying on behalf of the Labour Party. It’s in the National Policy Forum’s 2014 report, if you won’t take it from me or from the LabourLeft site.
      It’s in the section on “Britain’s Global Role”, starting on page 119.
      You can read a copy of the report here: http://www.whitehouseconsulting.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Pre-manifesto.pdf
      I should point out that the National Policy Forum is part of the policy-making system of the Labour Party, consisting of 186 members from various groups, of whom the largest is formed from representatives of the Constituency Labour Parties.
      Perhaps the position has changed since the events you mention?

      1. Geraint Thomas

        For the record I don’t think you’re lying, however I’ll point out that the policy only “raises concerns” about the ISDS and not about the fundamental issues of TTIP, nor does it promise to oppose TTIP itself and further at the start of that page lauds the benefits of more “open markets”.

        Further your evidence that Labour might move to a better position is a tweet from one candidate who’s clearly on the left of the party. There’s no guarantee, in other words, that this will not be the final position; and given that the party’s record in government was to oppose nationalisation of other industries (especially that of the rail) and more recently to overrule the conference voting on renationalising Royal Mail I personally feel justified in maintaining my skepticism.

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        It wasn’t a tweet; it was an opinion presented at the end of a website article in a relatively well-respected blog (only a little less influential than Vox Political). In politics there are very few guarantees, especially at a time when Conservative and Liberal Democrat leaders have made promises to the electorate, knowing that they intended to break those promises if elected into office (NHS reorganisation and tuition fees). Labour has not said the position outlined in this article is its last word on the subject, though, and it is up to party members to demand a stronger response.

  6. bookmanwales

    The TTIP in any form is not a good thing economically or socially. No matter how they are written it will always be to the benefit of the Corporations.
    One only has to look at the state of the US economy and the levels of unemployment it has brought to them to see that ANY US involvement in any trade deal will never ever benefit working people.

    Canada signed a trade deal and has suffered both unemployment and lawsuits from various corporations within the US and has stated it was the worst thing they ever did. No employment or financial benefits have come about as a result of this deal in fact the exact opposite.

    The current Labour leadership are at heart Neo Liberals no matter how you cut it and re-arrange it they have been for the past 20 yrs.

    Labour had 13 years to undo the damage made by Maggie and Co and chose to do nothing, I mean nothing, about it at all in place of higher wages they gave us Tax Credits, Unions where left hampered by Tory legislation and immigration was allowed to flourish unchecked lowering wages. Tax avoidance was untackled indeed even allowed to flourish.

    You must be able to understand people’s distrust of a party that had all the opportunities yet failed to capitalise on them.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a minute. You were going great guns for the first two paragraphs, and then suddenly went into a diatribe about Labour and neoliberalism.
      Labour is the only main UK political party opposing the TTIP in any form, and you are attacking it? If you oppose TTIP, why are you so keen to alienate the only ally you have with any influence?

  7. HomerJS

    I think that there are probably more problems with TTIP than just the ISDS. Labour may be adjusting its position, but these views can quickly change back, and we need to see a much more definite statement, rather than just ‘concerns’. This is difficult for Labour as we approach an election, but this is not just about corporations suing countries. It is about corporations taking control over everything, including democracy. We have seen how private business is inserting itself into the delivery of public services. We have seen how when this happens we lose all transparency and control, especially over costs. We have already seen (before ISDS) how difficult it is to remove a contract from a private company. We will end up having to compensate companies when they lose a contract, and probably also when they fail to win a contract.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I think you’re right about there being more problems. A commenter on the Facebook group, Andy Cropper, has raised the issue of Mode 4: “It’s a mechanism that’s used in other trade deals and basically it opens national borders and allows companies to shift foreign workers wherever they want thereby undercutting local workers as TTIP will allow companies that do so to get round such things as rights and national restrictions on pay… Instead of just being limited to the EU it will allow workers to travel from all round the world.. For me I have no angle on this but i could see how a Conservative or UKIP supporter could feel betrayed by this part of the deal.”
      There’s a link to an article as well, which I have to admit I haven’t read yet: http://www.politics.co.uk/comment-analysis/2011/09/01/comment-the-secret-immigration-policy-they-tr

  8. Jeffrey Davies

    We were told that the Labour in Europe group were wholly committed to the TTIP, because of its huge economic benefits for the UK and the EU. yet we call them labour little tories run by blairs babys yet how do we get them to aggree this isnt good for the country the only country its good for is america opening the doors for them to rape our country its that simple its never about how good it is for that person on the street its about america and how they can profit from you that it in a nutshell but then im lossing it anyways labour isnt labour but if we dont want the tories in again then who else does one vote for jeff3

  9. Malcolm Burt

    This is yet another good post highlighting the Labour stance on this awful legislation.There is no doubt that Labour have always wanted the N.H.S.exempted from this agreement,but it is only very recently that there has been a little movement from them in protecting other utilities that may be brought back into public ownership,as your article points out.My concern along with many others,is obviously the free market problem which has done little for the well being of the planet & it`s inhabitants.All government has failed to deliver a decent life quality for it`s subjects,& are themselves complicit in a programme of financial slavery.Without a doubt,the Labour party have been the most fairest of our governments,but the fact remains that the free market has failed not only this country but the whole world,as very little trickled down from the top.I`ll leave people to judge whether this policy is a bad thing or not,but Labour should have been quicker out of the blocks & stated their total opposition for it.

  10. Derek Robinson

    Typical Labour disaster really.
    I am intensely concerned at the lack of public comment from Labour on this entire subject.
    I think a healthier view of TTIP would be that it is a wrapping, a envelope purely to get ISDS and it’s associated wholly anti democratic principles in place.
    Is the world to be bought off like this, or should it stand up for democracy.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Hang on – you have read the article, right?
      How can Labour improving its position on the TTIP – to one that more clearly stands up for the UK’s national interest – be a “typical Labour disaster”?

  11. kittysjones

    Some people need to discern the difference between what they want to be true, and what actually is true! I’ve not seen so many lies about the other parties, and what is really unforgivable, is that the greens, snp, and the fringe ‘socialist’ groups are lying about labour’s policy proposals and intents just as much as the tories are . Shame on them. It’s not ‘socialist’ to prefer another 5 years of the tories, for crying out loud. Just think of those people suffering because of tory policies, and perhaps that will inspire you towards a genuine socialism.

  12. robinmcburnie

    I get the distinct impression that the Labour leadership are beginning to get the message that people want real change and would not support a government that effectively “sold” democratic freedom for a completely made-up figure of £400 per head (which nobody believes they would see anyway)!

  13. casalealex

    So “justice” secretary, (surely this is a misnomer), Chris Grayling, said the Conservatives want to scrap the Human Rights Act so that the final decisions in controversial cases could be made by the supreme court rather than the European court of human rights.
    The Conservatives have, however, omitted to tell us that these human rights would be replaced with the TTIP agreement which will give worldwide unelected and secret corporations the power to sue democratically elected governments; override all decisions of their courts, and all laws and regulations emanating from their parliaments, all in the name of “tackling regulatory obstacles to trade”.
    In fact TTIP is obviously concerned mainly with corporate interest, and nothing to do with human rights, workers rights, the environment etc. Having their own courts making decisions in secret, and totally undemocratic..

  14. Concerned reader

    Looking at the policy document (p. 121) :

    “The EU-US trade deal alone is expected to
    generate €80 billion worth of benefits for the
    EU and create 2 million jobs. Labour welcomes
    the continued negotiations on this deal and will
    continue to monitor its progress.”

    Welcoming continued negotiations is not opposing!

    It’s good the document endorses excluding “The NHS and public services” from TTIP, no doubt.

    What worries me is that this important topic is *absent* from prominent Labour statements to the media. A virtual footnote buried on page 121 of a 200 page document is not the right place to showcase a policy whose explanation and development could add significantly to public discourse concerning privatisation of public services in general, to the detriment of Labour’s supposed opponents.

    There’s something very limp and half-hearted about the committment there.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Labour wants a deal, right enough – but it wants one that actually benefits the UK, including the people doing the actual work. That’s a far cry from what the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats want!
      Your worry about the media silence on this matter is entirely justified. All we can do is keep hammering on the door. The EU held a consultation on its TTIP proposals earlier this year and people from the UK sent in more responses than any other country – more than 52,000 in total. It is of huge – and growing – concern to citizens of this country. Labour’s shifting position indicates a growing realisation of this, but it is up to the public to explain it to the mainstream media.

      1. Concerned reader

        Don’t you think it’s up to politicians to explain issues to the media?

        To be clear, it’s the silence of Labour politicians I’m worried about.

        It does not inspire confidence, and I suspect the motivation is the old one of not wanting to look too radical or left wing, worrying about Tory accusations of being anti-business, etc.

        If Labour want to retain what tattered credibility they have left with people who want real change in this country, they need to drop that sort of handwringing prevarication and stand up for their natural constituency, who are being more or less treated as stock animals by service profiteers and their highly-placed friends right now.

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        I don’t think you should be differentiating the parties in this instance. None of them have highlighted TTIP.
        Your concerns about Labour are perfectly valid in general terms, though.

  15. Concerned reader

    Thanks – I appreciate your replies.

    Re: differentiating the parties – It’s precisely the lack of differentiation between the two main parties that is so problematic! 🙂

    I hope any remaining leftwingers in Labour will consider defecting to the Greens. They have the policies (or at least more of the policies) and could benefit enormously from some mainstreaming.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      If they do that at this time, they hand the country to the Conservative Party for another five years – in a box, covered in wrapping paper, with a card attached that says, “Here is the UK. Do what you like to it and us for the next five years because we are stupid and deserve it.” And you know what? They will.

  16. Concerned reader

    Well, you could be right or wrong about the certainty of a Tory victory in that event. Too hard to say without a genuine crystal ball.

    What is certain is that the Labour Party has been heading away from the Left since around 1990.

    Supporting Labour in hopes that a few crumbs from the policy table will somehow reverse the gross injustice dominating British society is a strategy that has been failing for decades, now.

    It’s time to stop dreaming and stick up for your actual beliefs.

    If that means losing an electoral battle, so what? A 2015 victory for Labour won’t be a significant victory for social justice.

    A growing momentum for actual socialism, a fresh start in British politics where real change is on offer, is a much bigger prize.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Are you insane? A 2015 victory for the Conservatives will be a disaster for the UK and will cost the lives of even more tens of thousands of innocent people, caught in the crossfire of what these parasites laughably call “welfare reforms”.
      You need to get a bit of perspective before you cause any damage.

  17. Concerned reader

    No, I’m not insane. You are simply imagining there’s a huge difference between the outcomes of having Tory and Labour governments, whereas in reality the difference is much smaller. You then ascribe to me the lunacy of choosing the wrong side of that imaginary difference.

    Labour have given no indication they will back away significantly from the Tory dominated agenda of deficit reduction and austerity. It immediately follows that they will fail to significantly redress the gross inequality that produces the ills that you mention.

    In fact, if not insane, it is at least foolish to profess a desire for real change while remaining wedded to institutions and beliefs which can never produce it, such as the Labour Party and its policies. Change requires courage, and the ability to let go of the errors of the past.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      No, I’m not imagining a HUGE difference – just enough of a difference to keep a few dozen thousand UK citizens alive for a few more years.
      Don’t forget that Labour managed to reduce the deficit by £38 billion in the short period between Alistair Darlings expansionary budgets and the 2010 general election, while the Conservative-led Coalition has failed to match that in four and a half years of not-really-trying. If we had stuck with Labour in 2010, we’d be close to being in the clear by now. That’s a BIG difference!
      Your comment about Labour – in comparison with the Conservatives – is enough for me to believe I was right to question your sanity.
      I notice you’re not certain enough in your beliefs to attach your real name to them.

Comments are closed.