Remember the fuss over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)? No?
Let me tell you a story.
Back when the UK was part of the European Union, there was a move to create a trading partnership with the United States, allowing goods to flow between the two power blocs, practically tax free.
But problems arose over a so-called ‘Investor-State Dispute Settlement’ system that would have allowed corporations to prosecute individual nations if they passed laws that – for example – protected citizens from having to buy inferior goods that put their health at risk.
This would have interfered with the corporations’ profits, you see.
The possibility of entering an agreement that gave ultimate power to greedy shareholders rather than national governments that – at least nominally – exist to protect citizens killed the TTIP stone dead.
Now we have evidence of what a good idea this was:
Countries could soon face a ‘wave’ of multi-million dollar lawsuits from multinational corporations claiming compensation for measures introduced to protect people from COVID-19 and its economic fallout, according to a new report.
Researchers have identified more than twenty corporate law firms offering services to mount such cases, which would seek compensation from states for measures that have negatively impacted company profits – including lost future profits.
Measures that could face legal challenges include the state acquisition of private hospitals; steps introduced to ensure that drugs, tests and vaccines are affordable; and relief on rent, debt and utility payments.
Under controversial ‘Investor-State Dispute Settlement’ (ISDS) mechanisms, foreign investors, companies and shareholders are able to sue states directly at obscure international tribunals over a wide range of government actions… in what the researchers describe as “a parallel justice system for the rich”.
This Writer is not aware of the UK being a part of any ISDS procedure, and it is clear that any agreement to take part in one would be an offence against democracy.
Note very carefully that the UK’s Conservative government was very keen to take us into such an agreement with the United States, as part of the EU.
I can only agree with Labour’s John McDonnell…
Just when you thought the pandemic was bringing out the best in most people, some others crawl out from under their stones to exploit the tragedy. This is why we need to challenge the investor/state dispute settlement procedure in any proposed trade agreements. https://t.co/Iv4godCGE5
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
He wasted no time getting himself back in the public eye, with an “address to the nation” at 9am today. Most of us were probably still in bed.
And we didn’t miss much. It was a remarkably content-free speech, focusing mostly on the concerns of his billionaire friends who are desperate for us all to get back to work, making money for them.
So he said the UK was almost at the point where lockdown restrictions could start to be lifted, and he would be telling us over the next few days how that might be done – but he won’t actually let it happen until he is sure a second peak of coronavirus infections and deaths can be avoided.
In other words: no change for now.
He said he measures his success by the fact that the NHS has not collapsed, but failed to recognise that it was only in danger because of Tory starvation policies over the last 10 years, when they were preparing the service for US-style privatisation.
The one joy we can derive from this whole saga is the fact that it proves once and for all that the NHS must never be privatised; a private health system simply would not take any precautions in advance of a global health emergency because it would infringe on its profits.
As it is, Tory mismanagement means the death toll in the UK is disproportionately high, and likely to become the second worst in the world behind the United States.
He recognised the contribution of people like Captain Tom Moore, who raised millions for the NHS at the age of 99 by walking laps of his garden – without acknowledging that it was only necessary because of his government’s failures:
The simple fact is that Tory incompetence has made the impact of the virus far, far worse than it had to be – as acknowledged by these commentators:
Boris Johnson just said ‘many people will be looking at our apparent success’ in relation to Britain & Coronavirus. Our death toll is heading to be the 2nd worst in the world. This is not a ‘success’, Prime Minister – apparent or otherwise.
Johnson's return to work is not a "boost to the country". His indolence & incompetence are why we are the worst hit country in the world after the USA. What this country needs more than anything is to be rid of him and his appalling gang of sycophants, ideologues & opportunists.
— Dr Ruth McQuillan 🕷️#Leftie Tosser #FBPE (@mcquillan_ruth) April 26, 2020
Now the Prime Minister is back, perhaps we can talk openly about the absolute catastrophe that has been the government’s response. One figure demonstrates the extent of the disaster: Britain counts for just 1% of the global population yet we make up 10% of all Covid-19 deaths.
The kits ran out around two minutes after the service launched on Friday, and people were reportedly told there were none left on Saturday morning after around 15 minutes.
As of 10am on Sunday, home testing kits for England were listed as “unavailable” on the government’s website – two hours after booking slots reopened.
Key workers could no longer order any online by 9.10am on Monday – the fourth day in a row where tests have become unavailable within hours of the booking system opening.
That’s right – today it took just over an hour for the government to run out. This must be a serious blow to the Tory plan, which is to carry out 100,000 tests a day by Thursday.
And nursing staff are starting to refuse to work in places where PPE – Personal Protective Equipment – is not available to an acceptable standard. Who can blame them when so many of their colleagues have caught the coronavirus and died?
Johnson mentioned none of these facts in his speech today, knowing that his bluster would encourage the easily-led:
Boris will Milk Today for all it's worth, the fist will be flying, the finger will be pointing, in true Churchillian style and you will fall hook line and sinker for it.
BJ looks the same and still talks the same shite!!Prick Liar and thanks to us is he having a laugh seriously??I need to switch off before I launch my TV out the window!!😡😡😤😤I haven't missed him!!Blah blah economy economy!!!🙄🙄🙄🙄🙄🙈🙈🙈🙈🙈
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
Brexit supporters have been shown up properly over the last few days – and, to add insult to indignity, by Belgium!
After years of telling us that the EU denies member states their sovereignty, the lie has been revealed by three Belgian regions, which have asserted their sovereignty to stop the corporation-pleasing trade deal known as CETA in its tracks.
So the Brexiters, who have spent years telling us trade deals like CETA and TTIP are bad because they deny our national sovereignty, have turned on the spot and are now saying the EU is crazy to allow these regions to overturn a great deal.
They have to do this, in order to maintain their misconception that the EU denies sovereignty to nation states.
But we can all see the hypocrisy behind it – can’t we? Here’s Another Angry Voice:
Either the EU is a giant anti-democratic behemoth which imposes sinister corporate power grabs against member states’ wills, or it’s a democratic organisation that allows member states to obstruct wonderful, amazing. brilliant, marvellous corporate power grabs. It just can’t be both.
One of the worst aspects of TTIP is the inclusion of sovereignty destroying ISDS components that would allow multinational corporations to completely bypass the democratic and judicial systems of any countries that have signed up to it in order to sue governments in secretive transnational tribunals. This means that if any democratic government introduces new legislation that multinational corporations don’t like (plain packaging on cigarette packs, environmental protection laws, product safety standards, consumer rights, improved workers’ rights …) then the multinational corporations could extract £billions in compensation from the taxpayer in secretive transnational tribunals operated by a tiny band of extremely highly paid, mainly US based, corporate lawyers and arbiters.
This deal between the EU and Canada contains exactly the same kind of shady ISDS tribunals as TTIP. It’s precisely these sovereignty destroying ISDS components that are the main objection of Belgian politicians like Paul Magnette who have led the opposition to CETA.
The reaction from Brexiters has been comically hypocritical. They’re now trying to claim that the CETA is a great thing and that the EU is a basket case for allowing regional democratic parliaments to obstruct this supposedly marvellous deal!
What the hell do these Brexiters want? A few months ago they were telling us that corporate power grabs were evil and unacceptable attacks on our democratic sovereignty in order to push their anti-EU agenda. Now they’re telling us that giant corporate power grabs are the absolute bees knees and the EU is a totally dysfanctional basket case because individual member states and federal regions can assert their democratic sovereignty to obstruct them!
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.”
Economists are probably lining up right now to demonstrate that George Osborne is a fool.
The Chancellor is trying to persuade us that aiming for an immediate budget surplus is good policy. Experts disagree.
Very quick off the mark is Professor Simon Wren-Lewis in his Mainly Macro blog. He has already pointed out that fiscal tightening is a terrible idea when interest rates are at their zero lower bound (ZLB), as they are at the moment – if economic growth falters, then monetary policy cannot come to the rescue because interest rates are already as low as they can be.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reckons that there’s no reason for the government to reduce debt from its current level of 80 per cent of GDP, as long as the market is happy to keep buying it up. This Writer has issues with that, because it is not advisable for the UK or any other country to become a debt-servicing economy. However, the principle that there is no need for drastic action is sound.
Osborne’s plan may provide scope for dealing with further ‘Great Recessions’ without running out of what the IMF calls “fiscal space” (the amount of extra debt into which the UK could fall before there was any need for serious concern) – but this would demand that ‘Great Recessions’ take place much more often in the future than the past.
The claim that we should reduce the debt burden for future generations is dismissed as perverse, as it means “the costs of reducing debt would largely fall on the same generation that suffered as a result of the Great Recession”.
Leading on from this, he points out that any claim that an individual would want to pay their debts down quickly is not accurate, for the very good reason that nations are not like individuals; they are more like corporations. Firms live with permanent debt because that debt has paid for the capital purchases they have made: “The state has plenty of productive capital…. If we paid back most government debt within a generation, we would be giving that capital to later generations without them making any contribution towards it.”
From here it is fairly easy to see that selling off national assets (like the Royal Mail or Eurostar – or any of the profit-making utility firms, back in the 1980s) is a bad idea, because the national corporation (the UK) then fails to benefit from the proceeds of all its investment. The railways are an even worse case, because the country is subsidising them with more money than when they were a nationalised industry, but receives none of the profits.
Narrow down your definition of what is happening even further and we see that George Osborne is making the poor pay – with squeezes on benefits – in order to allow the rich to benefit; they will own the assets that the government is selling off while paying nothing towards the capital costs discussed above.
So – unless you are one of the very few people rich enough to profit from Osborne’s policy, do you really want to support him now?
This blog would be particularly interested in hearing from working people who voted Conservative last month:
Did you realise that Osborne would be penalising you and your descendants?
No cause for celebration: This man is now the leader of the largest British political organisation in the European Parliament.
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 hatestraitors.
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.
The masks were adopted by the loosely-affiliated protesters Anonymous as a clear indication of members’ feelings towards a Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition government whose actions, they believe, have been increasingly fascist.
These people have a point.
Has anyone read V for Vendetta lately? An early chapter, ‘Victims’, provides the historical background to the fascist Britain of the story – and provides very disturbing parallels with the current government and its policies.
In the story, there is a recession and a nuclear war. Fortunately, in real life we have managed to avoid the war (so far) but the recession of 2007 onwards has caused severe hardship for many, with average wages cut by nine per cent (in real terms) due to government policies.
In the story, the line “Everybody was waiting for the government to do something” is notable. Isn’t that just about as British as you can get? As a nation, we seem unwilling to take the initiative; we just wait for someone else to do something. We queue up. And then we complain when we don’t find exactly what we wanted at the end of the queue. But then it’s too late.
Does the government “do something”? Well, no – not in the story, because there isn’t any government worth mentioning at this point. But then… “It was all the fascist groups. The right-wingers. They’d all got together with some of the big corporations…”
Here’s another parallel. How many corporations are enjoying the fruits of the Conservative-led (right-wing) government’s privatisation drive?
The NHS carve-up signified huge opportunities for firms like Circle Health and Virgin, and Bain Capital (who bought our blood plasma supplies). Care UK, the firm that famously sponsored Andrew Lansley while he was working on the regressive changes to the health service that eventually became the Health and Social Care Act 2012, no doubt also has fingers in the pie.
The Treasury is receiving help – if you can call it that – from the ‘big four’ accountancy firms – PricewaterhouseCoopers, Deloitte, Ernst & Young and KPMG. They have written the law on tax avoidance. By no coincidence at all, these are the firms that run the major tax avoidance schemes that have been taken up by businesses and rich individuals who are resident in the UK. For more information on the government’s attitude to taxing the rich, see Michael Meacher’s recent blog entry.
The Department for Work and Pensions has employed many private firms; this is the reason that department is haemorrhaging money. There are the work programme provider firms who, as has been revealed in previous blog entries, provide absolutely no useful training and are less likely to find anyone a job than if they carried on by themselves; there are the IT firms currently working on Universal Credit, about which Secretary of State Iain Duncan Smith lied to Parliament when he said he was having to write off £34 million of expenditure – the true figure was later revealed to be closer to £161 million, almost five times as much; there are Atos and Capita, and probably other firms that have been hired to carry out so-called ‘work capability assessments’ of people claiming sickness, incapacity and disability benefits, according to a plan that intentionally ignores factual medical evidence and places emphasis on a bogus, tick-box test designed to find ways to cut off their support; and there is Unum Insurance, the criminal American corporation that designed that test, in order to push British workers into buying its bogus insurance policies that work on exactly the same principle – this is theft on a grand scale.
So we have a government in cahoots with big business, and treating the citizens – the voters – like cattle. We’ll see more of this as we go on.
“Then they started taking people away… All the black people and the Pakistanis…” All right, these social groups have not been, specifically, targeted (yet) – but we have seen evidence that our government would like to do so. Remember those advertising vans the Home Office funded, that drove around London with a message that we were told was for illegal immgrants: “Go home”?
“That is a term long-associated with knuckle-dragging racists,” said Owen Jones on the BBC’s Any Questions.
“We’re seeing spot-checks and racial profiling of people at tube stations. We have a woman on the news… she was born in Britain; she was told she was stopped because she ‘didn’t sound British’. And we have the official Home Office [Twitter] account being used to send gleeful tweets which show people being thrown into vans with a hashtag, ‘#immigrationoffenders’.
“Is this the sort of country you want to live in, where the Conservatives use taxpayers’ money to inflame people’s fears and prejudices in order to win political advantage? Because I don’t think most people do want that to happen.”
This blog’s article on the subject added that not only this, but other governments (like that in Greece) had created an opportunity to start rounding up anybody deemed “undesirable” by the state. “Greece is already rounding up people of unorthodox sexuality, drug addicts, prostitutes, immigrants and the poor and transferring them to internment and labour camps,” it stated.
Note also the government’s response to criticism from UN special rapporteur on adequate housing Raquel Rolnik. Grant Shapps and Iain Duncan Smith and their little friends tried to say that she had not done her job properly but, when this was exposed as a lie, they reverted to type and attacked her for her racial origin, national background, and beliefs – political and personal. You can read the lot in this despicable Daily Mail smear piece.
Back to V for Vendetta, where the narrative continues: “White people too. All the radicals and the men who, you know, liked other men. The homosexuals. I don’t know what they did with them all.” Well, we know what Greece is doing with them all, and in the story, such people also ended up in internment and labour camps. We’ll come back to that.
“They made me go and work in a factory with a lot of other kids. We were putting matches into boxes. I lived in a hostel. It was cold and dirty…”
Last month this blog commented on government plans for ‘residential Workfare for the disabled’, rounding up people with disabilities and putting them into modern-day workhouses where someone else would profit from their work while they receive benefits alone – and where the potential for abuse was huge. If that happens, how long will it be before every other jobseeker ends up in a similar institution?
A while ago, a friend in the cafe I visit said that a Tory government will always see every class of people other than its own as “livestock”. That’s the word he used – “livestock”. From the above, with descriptions of people being treated like cattle, or being herded into the workhouse for someone else to profit from their work, it seems he has a very strong case.
So let’s go back to these internment and labour camps – in V for Vendetta they’re called “resettlement” camps. A later chapter – The Vortex – reveals that inmates at such camps are subjected to unethical medical experimentation. The doctor carrying out the trials notes in her diary that the camp commandant “promised to show me my research stock… they’re a poor bunch.”
Her research stock are human beings who have been subjected to conditions similar to those of the Nazi concentration camps. Notice the language – this doctor considers the other human beings taking part to be her property. And they are “research stock” – in other words, she does not see them as other human beings but as livestock – exactly as the friend in the cafe stated.
The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.