David Don’t cry about it, David! Cameron whinges after being outflanked by the SNP.
The Conservative Government has responded to the Scottish National Party’s announcement that it will oppose changes to the Hunting Act – by postponing tomorrow’s (Wednesday) ‘free vote’ on the matter.
It seems if MPs are likely to freely vote against David Cameron’s wishes, he’d rather they didn’t vote at all. Someone should tell him, that defeats the point, really!
His tactic – shelving the vote until such time as he believes he has the advantage – copies that of European Parliament President Martin Schulz over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership.
Faced with strong opposition for the part of the proposed TTIP deal that would allow corporations to take legal action against countries if national legislation was likely to affect profits (ISDS – it stands for Investor-State Dispute Settlement) – no matter whether it was in the best interests of the population or not – Schulz shelved a vote that had been scheduled for earlier this year.
The TTIP vote eventually took place last week, overshadowed by the Greek referendum and clouded by political sleight-of-hand that meant important amendments to the agreement like the cancellation of ISDS were not considered – replaced by watered-down options that left the underlying principle of corporate power over nation states intact.
In line with the European Parliament model, you can expect the hunting vote to return to Parliament in a different form, once Cameron and his cronies have worked out another dirty trick to slip it through unopposed.
This week’s vote had been intended to neutralise opposition from the SNP with a claim that it would bring England and Wales in line with the situation in Scotland – but the Scottish Nationalists said they were reviewing the ban north of the border and it would not be right to allow the law in England and Wales to change while that was going on.
The Prime Minister has not taken this with good grace.
Fellow Tory hunt supporter Owen Paterson chimed in to say the SNP had shown “extraordinary hypocrisy” in voting on a matter that affects England but not Scotland, and claimed they were “playing games in order to antagonise the English.”
And SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon had already explained her party’s decision to take part in the hunting vote, saying there had been “overwhelming demand” from people in England.
The English, like the Welsh and the Scots, support the continuation of the hunting ban.
What a shame David Cameron cannot live with that.
Looking forward, we should probably expect fox hunting to return at a point after Cameron manages to force through another controversial plan – English Votes for English Laws (EVEL). He had to shelve that one last week.
Perhaps Ms Sturgeon is right, and he really is “not master of all he surveys in the House of Commons”.
Note: This article is aimed at people whose response to TTIP (and other serious issues) is to ignore it and hope it will go away. If you are not one of these people, please share this article with someone who is.
Details have emerged about the vote in the European Parliament on the secret EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that will affect UK citizens so harshly – but which gathered very little interest from any of you last week.
The European Parliament voted by a majority of 436 to 241, effectively to allow the deal to go ahead – ignoring repeated and widespread protest from their own constituents, according to Lee Williams in The Independent.
TTIP is about reducing and removing regulations that hamper trade – but protect the public and the environment. Once it is in place, you can expect to eat growth hormones in your beef that have been linked to cancer, your cosmetics will be filled with formerly-banned chemicals, GM foods (copyrighted by the firms that created them) will be forced onto your plate and pesticides will be filled with endocrine disruptors that can cause cancerous tumours, birth defects and other developmental disorders.
Critics have pointed out that the deal would lock privatisation into the UK’s National Health Service, meaning your treatment for any of the disorders created by these profitable enterprises would vary in effectiveness, depending on where you live. Once the deal is signed, there will be no way to ensure that we all receive a high standard of care; no UK government minister has any duty to provide it.
Are you interested now? Or is it still not worth worrying your pretty little head about it?
Fortunately for you, many other people have been working hard on your behalf. Unfortunately, your representatives in the European Union are doing all they can to silence this dissent. But that’s nothing to do with you either, one supposes.
The European Commission’s public consultation on one of the most controversial parts of TTIP – the Investor-State Dispute Settlement section that would allow corporations to sue nation states if legislation was passed that might restrict profits – received a resounding no from a staggering 97 per cent of respondents – but this was ignored.
A European Citizens’ Initiative against TTIP currently stands at over 2,300,000 signatures, but has been dismissed as “illegitimate” by the unelected European Commission.
If the Investor-State Dispute Settlement system is included in the deal, there will be nothing you can do to prevent fracking or phase out nuclear power. Look at the Australian court case on limiting cigarette advertising for a current example.
Lots of you say you oppose fracking. Why aren’t you interested in this?
And commentators say the vote was rigged by some creative procedural changes from EU President Martin Schulz, meaning nobody voted on a plan to cut ISDS from the deal altogether, while a watered-down ISDS scheme won MEPs’ approval.
What happened on Wednesday was proof that democracy has no power in the European Union and big business trumps the rights of citizens.
But you’re not bothered, are you?
Tell you what – you go back to watching Coronation Street, Britain’s Got Talent, or the media anaesthetic of your choice. Enjoy a game of Criminal Case.
Leave the heavy lifting to those of us who actually care about our health, the environment and democracy. There aren’t enough of us but obviously you’re more interested in other things.
Just remember, when the deal is in place and there’s nothing you can do:
Ignored: Protesters from across the EU who have mounted a huge campaign against the corporatists who want to override your rights in the name of profit. [Image: Huffington Post].
Did you think the Budget was the only important thing that happened yesterday (July 8)? Think again.
The European Parliament had its first-ever vote on the controversial TTIP trade deal between the EU and the United States – and, thanks to British Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, it went against the will of the people.
Millions of us, across Europe, have demanded the removal of part of the proposed partnership agreement that allows corporations to take legal action against national governments if they pass laws that inhibit the firms’ profit-making ability.
But a compromise on the controversial Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanism (ISDS) secured a majority, with help from the UK’s Liberal Democrat and Conservative MEPs.
It was opposed by Labour, Green, Plaid Cymru, SNP and UKIP MEPs
Stronger amendments, that were opposed to ISDS altogether, were kept off the agenda by procedural manoeuvres – leading to EU President Martin Schulz being accused of “shredding the rules of procedure”.
Nick Dearden of Global Justice Now said: “The only reason that MEPs are still trying so desperately to push this through is because of the enormously powerful corporate lobby machine in Brussels. TTIP is fundamentally an issue of people and democracy versus encroaching corporate power.”
Campaigning group 38 Degrees released a press release stating: “We know exactly what the corporate lobbyists writing this deal want: they want us to go quiet.”
Instead, the group is proposing a series of actions to ramp up the pressure:
Another huge national day of action. “Enormous public pressure has been a huge factor in causing chaos around TTIP so far. We know that as soon as people get the facts, outrage follows. The more people that know, the more worried decision makers will be.”
Commission an expert report on TTIP, to throw in the face of anyone who says it is a good idea. “It’d give us a valuable chance at media coverage, and we can take out adverts in newspapers and online to expose the findings.”
Meet face-to-face with MPs to ask them directly where they stand on TTIP “and what they’ll do to represent the British public’s opposition.”
Get ready for MEPs to come back from their summer holidays and be ready to pile the pressure on them again. “As soon as they’re back, they need to be reminded about TTIP. We need to make sure that whenever the next vote is, we’re ready to step in.”
“To be honest, this is probably one of the hardest issues 38 Degrees members have ever taken on. Many people hear “trade deal” and their eyes glaze over. The acronyms and figures that fly out of the mouths of TTIP officials are designed to get people to switch off,” the 38 Degrees press release states.
“But when people like us hear what’s going on and choose to stand up, that changes everything. TTIP has gone from zero public awareness to huge public outrage. There’s plenty more we can do together to stop this awful deal.”
This blog reported yesterday on a European Parliament vote due to take place today, that could have removed the controversial ‘Investor-State Dispute Settlement’ – the power for corporations to sue governments – from the even more controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership plan between the EU and the US.
It is proof of the obsessively secretive way that negotiations over the TTIP have been carried out that – at the time yesterday’s piece was being written – the vote had already been postponed.
According to Unite the Union’s Touchstone blog, several explanations have been put forward. The official version – to reduce the number of amendments put forward from 116 – is dubious, as in fact most were likely to be taken off the table to allow the Parliament to discuss the heart of the matter – whether the controversial ISDS mechanism should be allowed to remain part of the deal.
No new date has been set for a future vote.
If it had gone ahead today (Wednesday, June 10) then it is likely the European Parliament would have demanded wholesale changes in the negotiating mandate – originally secret – that Trade Ministers in EU member states gave to the European Commission when the TTIP negotiations started in 2013.
Touchstone is optimistic about the latest development: “Delaying the vote will only make public opposition to TTIP and ISDS clearer and more influential. And if the vote is delayed until September (as some think it might), that would deal a fatal blow to the hopes expressed by world leaders at last weekend’s G7 summit for TTIP negotiations to be all but over by the end of 2015.
“It’s very difficult now to find MEPs willing to back ISDS outright, which is one reason why the controversy has moved on to Trade Commissioner Malmstrom’s ISDS-lite proposal. But we should be celebrating the extent of the opposition to ISDS itself. Eighteen months ago, unions and other civil society groups had to force the European Commission to consult about ISDS, and that consultation was initially only about what form of ISDS to propose. Now popular opposition to ISDS has been replicated among MEPs, and the smokescreen of a ‘diet-ISDS’ is being blown away.
“Whenever the eventual vote on the Parliament’s resolution on TTIP is taken, we need to redouble our efforts to get MEPs – especially in the Conservative Party – to vote against ISDS, as well as for the exclusion of public services like health and education and a ‘positive list’ approach to protect those public services; no reduction in regulatory protections; and binding and enforceable workers’ rights.”
This blog published a link to a site that shows which UK MEPs have already indicated they will support the amendment that rejects ISDS (Amendment 27), and provides a list of undecided MEPs with links to their twitter accounts so you can tweet them. If you are concerned about TTIP/ISDS, then you should still contact your MEPs.
If you don’t know the names of your MEPs, or don’t have a Twitter account, you may be better off looking up their names and contact details on the European Parliament’s website.
Vox Political will keep you updated on any developments – just as soon as it is possible to prise them out of those in the know.
Here’s a new development in the saga of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and its iniquitous “Investor-State Dispute Settlement”. It’s happening tomorrow and – as usual – there has been very little publicity.
“On Wednesday, the European Parliament will vote on a political resolution, which will represent its position on the free trade agreement with the United States (TTIP).
“One point is particularly concerning in the European Parliament debate: it is the controversial investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), which will allow companies to attack states before private justice courts if they think legislation will undermine their profits and interests.
“Convinced that this mechanism challenges European democracies, a group of over 130 MEPs from different political groups (EPP, Social Democrats, Greens, EFDD, GUE) have proposed the following amendment (Amendment 27):
“Ensure that foreign investors are not discriminated against and have equal treatment in their efforts to seek and obtain compensation, without them enjoy greater rights than those granted to national investors;
oppose the inclusion of a dispute settlement mechanism between investors and states (ISDS) in TTIP, as there are other options to ensure the protection of investments, including domestic remedies;”
“The vote on this amendment will be tight. But you can help us. Ask your Members in the European Parliament to support Amendment 27 and to say no to ISDS in TTIP.”
The site then goes on to show which UK MEPs have already indicated they will support the amendment, and provides a list of undecided MEPs with links to their twitter accounts so you can tweet them.
If you don’t know the names of your MEPs, or don’t have a Twitter account, you may be better off looking up their names and contact details on the European Parliament’s website.
There isn’t much time so please pass on this information to as many people as you believe will be interested.
12/07/2014 – Protestors against the EU-US trade deal (TTIP – Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) outside the Houses of Parliament march to Europe House, the London Headquarters of the European Commission and the European Parliament, in Smith Square, London [Image: Huffington Post].
The Labour Party has been instrumental in ensuring that a large group in the European Parliament has rejected any use of the controversial Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) in trade deals with both the US (TTIP) and Canada (CETA).
The Socialist and Democrats Group in the European Parliament adopted almost unanimously a position paper drafted by a working group headed by UK Labour Party MEPs including David Martin (chair), Jude Kirton-Darling (spokesperson on TTIP and CETA) and Richard Corbett (Labour’s Deputy Leader in the European Parliament).
The proposal was supported by 78 votes to five against.
“We have always been opposed to ISDS as a group, although we didn’t have a chance to adopt a formal decision on this matter since the last European elections in 2014,” said Mr Martin. “In doing so today, we are responding to the thousands of constituents and the many civil society organisations that have asked us to clarify our position.”
Jude Kirton-Darling added: “This decision … will prove to be a real game-changer, not only in the negotiations between the EU and the US but also with respect to the ratification of the Canada agreement.
The European Commission and Europe’s Conservatives will need our support in the end if they want to see TTIP through. Today, we are sending them a loud and clear message that we can only contemplate support if our conditions are met. One such condition is we do not accept the need to have private tribunals in TTIP.”
And Richard Corbett said: “Today the Labour Party has demonstrated that engaging with our neighbours across the EU yields tangible results in the interest of the general public. Labour were instrumental in securing this outcome, and this is a tribute to the hard work, commitment and resolve of Labour MEPs.”
Allowing traders such power is clearly against the interests of the citizens of both the EU and the US (and Canada also, it seems). It would have made it possible for the Conservative Party, here in the UK, to lock its privatisation of the National Health Service into the way that service operates, because of an international agreement that would be binding to the UK.
Now it is clear that Labour – and its group in the European Parliament – will not accept that.
It is a welcome clarification that should silence the naysayers here in the UK, who have been quick to suggest that Labour retains too much of the neoliberalism that plagued the New Labour era, and actually supports moves that could exploit working people.
Any such claim has no credibility now.
Trade agreements between the EU, US and Canada are not inherently bad ideas – but they need to be written to benefit everybody involved, rather than just a few money-grubbing shopkeepers and industrialists.
With this agreement in place, we are a step closer to ensuring this is the case.
Who to believe – this infographic, by the private pharmaceutical company Lilly…
… or this, which has no corporate sponsor and was created by people who are concerned about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership deal?
Wasn’t it nice to see business minister Matthew Hancock so adamant that the NHS is protected from the provisions of the hugely controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership plan?
“There is no threat to the NHS from TTIP,” he promised. “Public services, and publicly funded health services, are not included in any of the EU trade commitments.”
Oh, really? And what happens when a future Labour government restores the NHS to full state control and the private companies that have been creaming cash off it scream blue murder? Can Hancock promise they won’t go to the even-more-controversial Investor-State Dispute Settlement system to take revenge on that government.
Of course he can’t.
But it was interesting to hear his opinions today. That was all the backbench business debate could claim to do – get MPs to air their own views and those of their party on this sticky subject. The decision that the EU and UK Parliaments should scrutinise the provisions of both TTIP and ISDS are not binding on any government, even though they express the wish of the current Parliament.
Here are a couple more Tory opinions. First, Conservative Robert Walter tried to allay fears by pointing to a letter from business secretary Vince Cable, stating that “the new Commissioner, Cecilia Malmstrom, has… stated explicitly that ‘public service, including health, education and water management, are not on the agenda.’”
‘Not on the agenda’ means ‘not on the agenda for discussion’, though, and not necessarily ‘not included in the deal’.
And Conservative Dr Sarah Wollaston tried to offer more substantial reassurance by saying she had received correspondence from Jean-Luc Demarty, the European Commission’s director-general for trade, who “made it absolutely clear that all publicly funded health services, including NHS services, would be protected under TTIP… as long as the services are publicly funded, it does not matter how they are delivered.”
This seems fair – but what if the Tories decide to remove state funding from NHS services that are now – or will be in the future – provided by private firms? This would firstly force people receiving that service to pay, and secondly the TTIP would remove the right of any future government to restore state provision; it would be interfering with a private company’s profits.
The motion was moved by Geraint Davies MP, who said: “If we end up with a situation where multinational companies are able to sue democratically-elected Governments over laws they have passed to protect their citizens, we will be in the wrong place altogether.
“The harsh reality is that this deal is being stitched up behind closed doors by negotiators, with the influence of big corporations and the dark arts of corporate lawyers. They are stitching up rules that would be outside contract law and common law, and outside the shining light of democracy, to give powers to multinationals to sue Governments over laws that were designed to protect their citizens.”
On health, he said: “All sorts of assurances have been given on health and social care but they are by no means watertight… As case law has not been established in Britain, the NHS remains at risk. The opening door created by the endless privatisations from the coalition Government creates more scope and risk for intervention, which could lead to possibly billions of pounds worth of legal action if a future Labour Government reversed a lot of the privatisation that has already occurred. Frankly, that would be in contrast to, and conflict with, the democratic wishes of the British people—if we get in.
“Due to the lack of case law, at any point a judge could say ‘Here is an area where there is already private competition. We will allow TTIP; why shouldn’t we?’ The more it goes forward, the more we are exposed, which is a real problem.”
Regarding ISDS, he said: “If these powers are available, they will be used to fleece the taxpayer. In my view, they are unnecessary. I accept that some protection may be needed between developed economies and democracies and rogue states, but rogue states are certainly not the United States. Mature democracies and economies, namely the EU and the US, do not need anything more than contract law to protect investors.”
Caroline Lucas (Green) pointed out in support of this that “the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland, who are in trade agreements that include this kind of investor-state relationship, have been sued 127 times and have lost an amount of money that could have employed 300,000 nurses for a year“.
Mr Davies added: “The Labour party is standing on a pledge of freezing energy prices; again there could be a risk of challenge. If we wanted a one-off tax on privatised utilities, such as the one introduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown), on, for instance, Royal Mail, we could be at risk. If there were a move to partial or actual renationalisation of the railways or whatever, it could be subject to fines. The point is not whether one agrees with these policies; it is whether one thinks that we have the democratic right here on behalf of the people to pass those laws and not face financial intimidation.”
Labour’s David Anderson said: “People in this country are sick to death of the way public services have been treated over the past three decades. We have the nationalised train companies of other countries running our train services. We have multinational energy companies fleecing the old and poor in this country who are trying to keep their lights on and their houses warm. We have foreign postal companies undermining the universal service obligation. We have water companies—dealing with the basis of human life—that do not know where the people they provide the service to live. We have a coal industry where 200,000 people lost their jobs and communities were devastated, and we buy in coal from some of the most unstable regimes on earth. And now we worry that the health service will be fragmented before our very eyes. That is why people do not trust, and are very worried about, these negotiations.
The risk to air and water safety from fracking, and of sub-standard environmental controls, as there are in the United States, through the back door of TTIP, with ISDS, was also raised – and members on both sides of the house agreed that it was a valid issue.
Perhaps Labour’s John McDonnell described the issue best when he said: “The TTIP agreement passes over economic sovereignty on a scale that is equivalent to the establishment of the Common Market and the European Union, so I cannot understand why the Government are allowing that to happen without the full involvement of the people.
“This is about the corporate capture of policy making in this country – and in parts of Europe.”
Cameron at the G20: He reckons he has put “rocket boosters” on the planned TTIP agreement. But is it just a lot of hot air?
Does anyone else think David Cameron’s pledge to put “rocket boosters” on plans for a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership has more to do with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s doubts about the project than anything else?
A little more than two weeks ago, Mr Juncker announced that he was reviewing part of the proposed trade agreement between the European Union and the United States of America – the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) scheme, a part of the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement that critics say would make it possible for corporations to sue national governments for damages if new legislation was likely to affect their profitability.
(Note that a BBC report has described it as an element of TTIP which “would allow foreign investors to go to an international tribunal for compensation if a government breaks the rules”. This is not true – Mr Juncker has stated that the Commission “will not accept that the jurisdiction of courts in the EU Member States be limited by special regimes for investor-to-state disputes” – but what can we expect from a BBC that is hopelessly enslaved to Conservative ideology?)
According to the BBC, Cameron claimed that EU and US leaders had all agreed that TTIP “is a deal we want”. Oh really?
The report goes on to say he “‘sensed an enthusiasm'” – honestly, visit the site and read it yourself if you think Yr Obdt Srvt is making it up! – “from EU leaders and US President Barack Obama during a meeting in Brisbane earlier, and was now ‘hopeful of progress’ on TTIP.”
So did they actually say they wanted this deal to go through? Or is Cameron just talking through his hat again?
Conservative ministers seem to be making a habit of coming back from meetings with foreign ministers with an extravagant claim, only for it to fall apart under examination – look at George Osborne’s disastrous failure over the EU surcharge.
Regarding the concern Mr Juncker raised over ISDS, Cameron blathered: “We’ve signed trade deal after trade deal and it’s never been a problem in the past.” How reassuring. But those trade deals were not the same as this, and it is right that Mr Juncker should examine the evidence critically in the light of public outcry. Cameron really has no power in this matter; it is an agreement between the EU – not the UK – and America.
Cameron also tried to make light of fears that ISDS would ‘lock in’ his changes to the English National Health Service, and make it possible to lock them into the health service in other parts of the UK if they fall under Tory control in the future. “There’s no threat, I believe, from TTIP to the National Health Service,” he wibbled, “and we should just knock that on the head as an empty threat.” Again, how reassuring. But he provided no guarantees and we should not believe him if he did.
You see, Cameron wants to lock his changes into the NHS, and he sees TTIP as the mechanism for achieving this.
His problem is that talks are proceeding at a pace that means any agreement will take place after the UK’s General Election in May next year – and an elected Labour government would repeal the Health and Social Care Act 2012, which allowed private healthcare firms to cherry-pick services in the English NHS, the very next day.
This is one reason you should ignore claims that Ed Miliband’s Labour Party is unelectable. Cameron is clearly terrified that he will lose power before he can hammer the final nail in the coffin of public healthcare in the UK.
His claims that all involved are keen to accelerate the TTIP agreement with “rocket boosters” are just – appropriately – gusts of hot air.
This is shaping up to be a very bad week for David Cameron.
Not only is his ‘welfare reform’ plan a laughing-stock after the DWP was revealed to be posting fake tweets about Universal Credit; not only was he struck by a passing jogger when he was in Leeds to discuss the (don’t laugh) High Speed 3 project (less than a week after a man threw a bag of marbles at hime during Prime Minister’s Questions); but now…
His much-cherished plan to ‘lock in’ privatisation of National Health services in England is in jeopardy after incoming European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker announced a review of the relevant part of a proposed trade agreement with the United States of America.
The decision must pile insult on top of injury for Cameron, who launched a famously lonely campaign to prevent Juncker’s appointment as president, attracting almost no support at all from his EU colleagues (only Hungary supported him) and confirming the catastrophic loss of influence the UK has suffered in the European Union under Cameron’s premiership.
Mr Juncker said the Investor-State Dispute Settlement scheme – a part of the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement that critics say would make it possible for corporations to sue national governments for damages if new legislation was likely to affect their profitability – would be reviewed.
In a speech to the European Parliament, Mr Juncker said: “I took note of the intense debates around investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations.
“My Commission will not accept that the jurisdiction of courts in the EU Member States be limited by special regimes for investor-to-state disputes. The rule of law and the principle of equality before the law must also apply in this context… There will be nothing that limits for the parties the access to national courts or that will allow secret courts to have the final say in disputes between investors and States.”
He said he had taken control over the ISDS process away from Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström and handed it to Frans Timmermans, the incoming, and first, Vice-President in charge of the Rule of Law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights. “There will be no investor-to-state dispute clause in TTIP if Frans does not agree with it too,” he said.
The Financial Times has reported that Juncker made his decision “largely at the behest of Germany, which has turned sour on ISDS”. This will rub salt into the recently-opened wound caused when the EU billed the UK an extra £1.7 billion for membership, based on calculations of our economic improvement (Germany is getting a rebate).
“Germany’s misgivings have in turn fed into a more generalised distemper with global trade across the EU, encompassing the French far right and fringe parties elsewhere. They claim ISDS has morphed into a tool of multinational companies that use the arbitration panels to circumvent, or even alter, national laws at their whim,” the paper reported.
This is exactly what has caused hundreds of thousands of people to complain to the European Commission after details of the TTIP proposals were leaked from secret meetings.
Even now, TTIP remains largely unreported by the mass media here in the UK, which is mainly run by right-wing, pro-privatisation moguls. Mr Juncker announced his decision in a speech on October 22 – a week ago – but the only British newspaper to report it was the FT.
For Cameron, the humiliation is just as bad, whether the media reports it or not.
This is not a victory for campaigners against ISDS or the TTIP – although Mr Juncker’s decision may discourage the United States from taking the project further. It remains as important as ever that anyone with an objection needs to make that objection known.
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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