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.
The High Court has ordered the legal teams acting for myself and Rachel Riley to move onto the next stage of her libel action against me.
This means we have to fill out a ‘directions questionnaire’ containing details including, for example, the names of any witnesses we wish to call.
More interesting, though, is the possibility of “alternative dispute resolution” – meeting with Ms Riley’s legal team in order to end the case without going to trial.
Courts take the view that litigation should be a last resort, and that claims should not be issued prematurely when it is possible for the parties to come to a settlement. If parties refuse to consider this option, then the court may penalise them when determining costs.
This was made clear in the ‘Pre-action Protocol for Defamation’ that Ms Riley’s lawyers sent me, almost a year ago.
But when my own legal team contacted them to discuss the case, they filed proceedings against me rather than take this reasonable step.
I’m still happy to have a chat about it.
It seems silly for Ms Riley to be determined to waste thousands of pounds forcing a trial in which her own behaviour will be dragged into the light, for all to see and condemn.
But, for the time being at least, it seems that is what she wants to do.
She still knows that I can only take the case to trial with your support, while she can rely on her TV-derived riches to, basically, buy a verdict against me.
If you think that it is unreasonable to force a trial when an alternative settlement is available, then please contribute to the CrowdJustice fund.
The only way to discourage Ms Riley from her apparent plan is to convince her that she can’t buy a verdict and faces the possibility of the facts being brought out in court.
Email five of your friends, asking them to pledge to the CrowdJustice site.
Post a link to Facebook, asking your friends to pledge.
On Twitter, you could tweet in support, quoting the address of the appeal.
On other social media platforms, please mention the campaign there, quoting the appeal address.
I’m offering Ms Riley a chance to avoid expensive court proceedings but so far she hasn’t taken it. To me, that seems to show that she is less interested in justice than in bullying a poor person.
If you agree, please give what you can to make sure she is foiled.
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.
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and UK Brexit Secretary David Davis: The one on the right is a liar, but the one on the left intends to hold him to his word – as does Guy Verhofstadt of the European Union.
It is exactly as Vox Political stated: David Davis has undermined trust in the UK’s sincerity during Brexit negotiations and now the EU27 are halting further developments until cast-iron assurances are provided.
Serves the arrogant, ignorant and flat-out stupid Tory right.
And Guy Verhofstadt isn’t the only one vowing to hold the UK to its obligations: Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said both Ireland and the EU would be holding the UK to the terms of the agreement reached last Friday.
A spokesman for Mr Varadkar said, “as the Taoiseach indicated on Friday, even if the worse case scenario occurs and there is no final deal, there must still be full alignment north and south under the agreement”.
The … spokesman cited in particular Article 46 which states that: “The commitments and the principles…are made and must be upheld in all circumstances, irrespective of the nature of any future agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom.”
It is exactly as This Writer stated, regarding Mr Davis:
They are judging him according to his character: He lied about the ‘impact assessments’ and he reckons Friday’s agreement is a lie as well.
Does anybody remember the saying, “An Englishman’s word is his bond”?
Mr Davis, together with the Conservative government under Theresa May, has put an end to that. Our international reputation is ruined.
And if he thinks anybody is going to sign a trade deal with a government of liars, he’s going to have a very nasty surprise.
The European Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator has accused David Davis of “undermining trust” with “unacceptable” comments that implied last week’s breakthrough deal was not legally binding.
Guy Verhofstadt lashed out as he revealed MEPs would toughen up their red lines before agreeing that the negotiations can move onto a future trade deal – a development Britain badly wants.
“Remarks by David Davis that phase one deal last week not binding were unhelpful & undermines trust. EP text will now reflect this & insist agreement translated into legal text ASAP,” Mr Verhofstadt tweeted.
It is clear that Mr Davis lied about the existence of these documents. If anybody wants to split hairs about the difference between an “analysis” and an “assessment”, This Writer would urge them to look up a dictionary definition of both terms and consider whether there really is a huge difference between them.
Now he has said the last-minute agreement on the Irish border, citizens’ rights and the financial settlement between the UK and the EU27 on Brexit is “non-binding”.
According to the BBC: “He stressed that the deal struck by Theresa May on Friday to move to the next phase of talks was a “statement of intent” and not “legally enforceable”.
“Mr Davis has said “full alignment” would apply to the whole of the UK, not just Northern Ireland, but the Sunday Telegraph said Conservative Brexiteers had been reassured that it was “non-binding” and had been included to secure Ireland’s backing for the deal.”
This shows an extraordinary lack of intelligence from Mr Davis.
Only a few weeks ago, his colleague Boris Johnson caused an international incident when he said he believed Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been teaching journalism in Iran – confirming the claims of the Iranian authorities who had arrested her (such actions are considered to be ‘soft’ campaigning against the ruling regime there). In fact, she had been on holiday.
Of course the Iranians took Mr Johnson at his word and threatened to double Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s prison term. The imbecilic foreign secretary is in Iran at the time of writing, trying to put right his monumental blunder.
Now Mr Davis has made almost exactly the same kind of blunder – but one that could have far more serious repercussions for everybody in the UK.
What chance the EU 27 will decide that David Davis’ suggestion that the UK’s EU agreement is just ‘a statement of intent’ and so not binding is now good reason for delaying progress on trade talks? High, I’d say
Theresa May meets Jean-Claude Juncker for their early-morning meeting. She’s smiling because she thinks she’s found a way to hoodwink us all into believing she has achieved something solid when all she has done is kick the Brexit can down the road.
Am I wrong? Let’s consider.
Here’s what Theresa May and the Tories want you to think has just happened:
Today’s Brexit deal delivers: – No hard border in Northern Ireland – Secures a good financial deal for British taxpayers meaning more money for our priorities like housing, schools, and the NHS – Secured the rights of EU citizens living here, and UK citizens living in the EU pic.twitter.com/h4QtXdwnFv
On the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, the announcement today states: “In the absence of agreed solutions, the United Kingdom will maintain full alignment with those rules of the Internal Market and the Customs Union which, now or in the future, support North-South co-operation, the all-island economy and the protection of the 1998 Agreement.”
This means Theresa May and her EU counterparts have sidestepped the competing demands facing them – not to have a ‘hard’ border, and for Northern Ireland not to enjoy separate rules from the rest of the United Kingdom. And:
If this means what I think it means, then May just gave a massive boost to the prospect of an economically united Ireland – its the only way to read it
The BBC states: “It’s not entirely clear how full alignment could be maintained without Northern Ireland staying in the single market and the customs union, especially as there is no such thing as partial membership.”
The Daily Mirror is more scathing: “Everyone’s kicked the can down the road… The UK wants to secure Northern Ireland’s status without any special treatment through an overall EU-UK deal later in the process.”
There will be no hard border, but Northern Ireland will get unfettered access to the internal UK market – even though the UK is leaving the EU’s single market and customs union.
Even if an overall UK-EU deal does not secure NI’s status without special treatment, the plan now offers NI “full alignment” with some current EU rules it shares with the Republic – possibly including some aspects of the Customs Union as mentioned above.
The Mirror continues: “The words “regulatory alignment” – which enraged the DUP so much they called Mrs May midway through a lunch to scupper a previous deal – have been dropped from the agreement. Instead the Northern Ireland government will get a veto on any new “regulatory barriers” between Northern Ireland and the UK.”
Won’t this simply scupper talks further down the line?
“Meanwhile, the UK and Ireland can continue to sort out between them people’s rights to move across the border under the Common Travel Area. This will not affect Ireland’s obligations under EU law.”
And what about NI’s obligations under UK law?
“And Irish Premier Leo Varadkar said Northern Ireland citizens can continue to “exercise his or her right” to EU citizenship” – further complicating matters as not every NI citizen is going to do that.
On the financial settlement – often known as the ‘divorce bill’, Theresa May wants you to think she has beaten back the EU, and the UK will not pay any more than it must, meaning more cash for domestic concerns like “housing, schools and the NHS”.
But she won’t be devoting £350 million a week to those concerns, as Leave campaigners offered in the run-up to the referendum, so UK citizens should rightly feel short-changed.
And the wording of the financial settlement is opaque to the point of impenetrability. It states: “The second phase of the negotiations will address the practical modalities for implementing the agreed methodology and the schedule of payments.” In other words, everyone’s kicked the can down the road.
The BBC says: “A method for calculating the bill has been agreed, but the calculation of an exact UK share will depend on exchange rates, on interest rates, on the number of financial commitments that never turn into payments, and more. The question of how and when payments will be made still needs to resolved, but it will be a schedule lasting for many years to come, and it is highly unlikely that anyone will ever be able to give an exact figure for the size of the divorce bill. UK sources say it will be up to £40bn, but some EU sources expect it to be higher than that. No-one can say for sure, and both sides want to keep it that way.”
The Mirror adds a few details that Mrs May would probably prefer you didn’t know:
“The financial settlement itself will be drawn up and paid in Euros – meaning Britain will lose out because the pound plummeted on referendum night.
“Britain will have to pay its share of budget commitments “outstanding at 31 December 2020”.
“It will take 12 YEARS [for the UK] to be repaid the huge pot Britain has in the European Investment Bank. The sums will be repaid in instalments of 300 million Euros a year.
“Britain will honour commitments it made before 2019 for refugees in Turkey.
“It will also continue to pay into the European Development Fund in full until the current round ends in 2020.”
Is this really a good financial deal? It looks like a fudge to This Writer.
All right, then – what about citizens’ rights?
It seems that Mrs May has given in to the EU on most of the details – although the announcement that this is a reciprocal deal, meaning everything that applies to the UK will also apply to EU citizens, is a bit of a breakthrough for the minority prime minister.
Brextremists will hate the agreement that, although the European Court of Justice will not have direct jurisdiction over citizenship cases, UK courts must continue to give “due regard” to its decisions – indefinitely. Not only that, but UK courts will have to refer questions of interpretation (of the rules) to the ECJ for no less than eight years after Brexit.
The Conservative government wants us to believe the agreement is entirely voluntary and will only apply to two or three cases a year. We’ll see.
There are multiple blows for people who wanted Brexit to mean the UK will be able to control the number of people moving here from EU states:
EU citizens will be able to move here at any time up to the date of Brexit (March 29, 2019), and their rights will be protected under today’s agreement.
According to the Mirror: “If an EU citizen is living legally in Britain before March 2019, a huge range of relatives will all have the right to move to Britain – for the lifetime of the person already living here. That includes their spouses, registered partners, children and grandchildren (“direct descendants”) under 21 – even if they’re not born yet – and spouses’ dependent direct relatives.”
The Mirror goes on to provide a long list of other conditions that will have made Brextremists choke on their breakfast today:
“Mrs May’s plan to force EU citizens to apply for “settled status” appears to be intact – she wanted to let people apply after they’ve been in Britain for five years. But the arrangements must be “transparent, smooth and streamlined”, the deal says.
“People who’ve settled in Britain can now leave for up to five years without losing their settlement rights. Theresa May wanted it to be just two years.
“Residence documents must be issued either free of charge, or no more expensive than similar documents would be for UK nationals. A “proportionate approach” will be taken to those who “miss the deadline with good reason”.
“People who already have UK residence documents issued under EU law must have them converted to the new status free of charge – with only a security and background check.
“Benefits and healthcare arrangements will continue as they are now for people living in a country under the agreement before 29 March 2019.
“But in a blow for expats, there’s no deal on whether UK citizens settled in the EU will be able to move to other EU countries freely, or will be fixed in the country they’re in now.”
Is that really “securing” everybody’s “rights”? Or is it simply doing as we’re told by the EU negotiators?
Let’s all remember the following, from the agreement document: “Under the caveat that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, the joint commitments set out… in this joint report shall be reflected in the Withdrawal Agreement in full detail.”
This means nothing has been delivered at all.
Everything that has been agreed so far could be thrown away if future stages of Brexit negotiations run into difficulty or unravel altogether.
And commentators in the social media have already sniffed out the devils in the details:
I am not celebrating May’s Brussels Deal. A) We don’t know what it is B) It’s a colossal waste of money C) I don’t know Parliament will agree it D) It means we leave the customs union E) It sounds like a Norwegian deal, only worse. So, F) It’s the enfeebling of the UK.
Complete Capitulation – UK-EU joint report: "In the absence of agreed solutions, the United Kingdom will maintain FULL ALIGNMENT with those rules of the Internal Market and the Customs Union which, now or in the future, support North-South cooperation."
The details of the Irish border agreement have been delayed, as has the final agreement on the financial settlement, despite the fact that we were all told these must be finalised before negotiations move on to trading deals.
And the deal on citizens’ rights seems to be everything the EU could want it to be, while ‘Leave’ voters will feel that they have been left out in the cold.
But all the negotiating parties seem happy to let this non-deal stand.
I wonder what Parliament will do with it, let alone what the representatives of the EU’s 27 remaining states will think, when they discuss it on December 14.
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The Tories promised they would take back control after Brexit. They meant they would take it AWAY – from US [Image: PA].
If you were wondering why the Tories have quietly dropped their dodgy ‘Bill of Rights’, it’s because they don’t need it any more – they can achieve the same aims, with far less fuss, in their so-called ‘Repeal Bill’.
The Bill will be the most dishonest piece of legislation to go through Parliament in decades – starting with its title. It will repeal nothing. The stated aim is to enshrine European laws that the UK observes (without having passed them as our own) into UK law, to ensure a smoother transition when Brexit happens.
But this is not true. The Tories intend to pick and choose which EU laws get to go on the UK statute book – and the plan is to ensure that the people lose out to corporations on every line.
So the ‘Bill of Rights’ – which was intended primarily to remove rights that had been conferred on UK citizens by the EU – will no longer be necessary; the Tories will simply cut those rights out of the Repeal Bill and hide it from the public.
Similarly, the Tories won’t have to face public scrutiny over their plans to ensure that corporations can sue the UK government if any future administration tries to put the good of the citizens before private profit.
The so-called Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) system was a principle reason the US-EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement foundered last year. Soon after, it was rumoured that the whole project may have been demanded by the UK government, with the intention of putting corporations in control.
Now, with our departure from the EU imminent, the Tories don’t need anybody else’s permission to impose the worst of all possible worlds on the people of the United Kingdom.
They are planning a new hierarchy, with working people at the bottom, enjoying no rights other than what their overprivileged toff masters hand down to them.
Next will be the apparatus of the state, as embodied in the elected government.
But the government will be a slave to the will of the corporations.
And who will be at the top of this system?
Why, shareholders in corporations, of course. And wouldn’t it be a strange coincidence if these boardrooms turned out to be stuffed with people who are currently Conservative government ministers?
Perhaps you should ask your Tory-voting neighbour why they support this kind of corruption.
Fundamental rights and powers that ordinary citizens currently enjoy will be scrapped.
Currently, a European ruling means an individual can seek damages if the government has failed to properly implement the law. But the government says that no similar domestic law exists, so there will be no legal mechanism to get such redress in future.
There will be plenty more where this comes from. The Great Repeal Bill, after all, awards our government powers that no modern government has enjoyed in peacetime. And far from simply changing the words “European Union” into “United Kingdom”, ministers will gain the ability to make radical changes to fundamental human rights and environmental protections that simply don’t make sense when taken out of an EU context.
As if this weren’t bad enough, Trade Secretary Liam Fox is touring the planet looking for unsavoury regimes we can sign deregulatory trade deals with. And at the heart of those trade deals, in all likelihood, will be special “corporate courts” that allow foreign businesses the power to sue governments for regulations they judge to be “unfair”.
That’s right – as British citizens lose their ability to hold the government to account in court, foreign multinationals will gain rights to sue the government in secret arbitration panels for passing a regulation or standard that those corporations believe will damage their profits.
We know this because these “courts”, formally known as Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), already exist in hundreds of investment deals in which countries all over the world have been secretly sued for such radical actions as putting cigarettes in plain packaging, placing a moratorium on fracking, removing toxic chemicals from petrol. No appeal is allowed. And we know that the British government has been one of the most vociferous in the world in putting the case for such courts.
It is the eve of the European Parliamentary elections. How much do you really know about what your candidates would do – if elected?
Much of the debate so far has focused on personalities rather than policies – but does it really matter that Labour won’t commit to an in-out referendum on our EU membership (which is a UK Parliament issue in any case) if its MEPs do their job properly and defend the interests of the British people in the Brussels assembly?
Does it matter that the Conservatives are promising such a referendum, if they give away your right to a high-quality health service, along with your rights at work, to American companies?
These are the issues that really matter.
A few months ago, Vox Political was running articles on the highly controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, currently being negotiated between the European Union and the United States of America. Much of the groundwork has been carried out in secret, hidden from public scrutiny, but the information that has been made available has aroused serious concern that this agreement will weaken existing standards and regulations that protect workers and consumers in the EU.
In particular, the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) would allow any foreign company operating in the UK to make a claim against the government for loss of future profits resulting from any regulatory action by the government, such as new legislation. Such claims would be considered by an unelected, unaccountable tribunal composed of three corporate lawyers whose decisions are likely to favour the corporations and would override national laws.
It is widely believed that the TTIP will be used by our Conservative-led government as a means of locking-in its detrimental changes to the National Health Service.
With this in mind, I wrote to three of the four current Welsh MEPs (the fourth is standing down), asking a few simple questions:
Do you want the health of your constituents to depend on a foreign company’s balance sheet?
Are you in favour of sales or the safety of your constituents?
Do you support attacks on workers’ rights?
Do you support the people who elected you – or are you a puppet of the corporations?
The response from Labour’s Derek Vaughan was characteristically short and to the point: “As you would expect, Labour MEPs oppose the ISDS in certainly anything which would allow the Tories/UKIP to argue for further privatisation of the NHS.
“You may also wish to take this matter up with those who really are the puppets of corporations.”
We’ll come to them shortly. Derek’s answer – though brief, tells you everything you need to know about Labour. They aren’t staying silent (as a recent Liberal Democrat letter asserted) and they aren’t pandering to corporate interests. Labour will defend British institutions against any European ruling or agreement that infringes on them. That’s a promise.
Jill Evans, for Plaid Cymru, had a little more to say: “I share your concerns regarding the TTIP as does the rest of my group in the European Parliament, the Greens/EFA group.
“We are 100 per cent against ISDS as we do not believe that extra-judicial powers should be given to foreign investors. We have been working hard to lobby the Commission to get them to make changes to the TTIP… The TTIP will include a strong focus on … co-operation but the regulatory cultures and social and environmental standards on both sides of the Atlantic are very different; conflicts over GMOs and Hormone Beef are just two examples.
“The TTIP is also controversial from an industrial policy point of view. The two blocs are not complementary, but in fierce competition for global markets and the setting of global industrial standards. Transatlantic cooperation could, however, pave the way for higher global ecological standards and for a faster conversion towards a sustainable green economy. Both the EU and the US need to find new avenues to create social wealth. The task we are set with is trying to find the right balance.”
So Plaid and the Greens are as strongly-opposed to the ISDS as Labour, but acknowledge there are advantages to be had – if this agreement is negotiated by the right representatives. This is why it is so important that you use your vote wisely. A vote for UKIP might seem like a worthwhile protest against the UK’s Conservative government, but what good will it do when the Kippers, who support corporate power, wave through measures to strip you of your rights?
And then we have Kay Swinburne, representing the Conservatives. Her response was the longest of the lot, perhaps suggesting that she knew her party’s stance was harder to justify.
“Transatlantic trade flows (goods and services trade plus earning and payments on investment) averaged $4 billion each day through the first three quarters of 2011. In 2008 EU/US combined economies accounted for nearly 60 per cent of global GDP,” she stated.
“However, for all its value and importance, the EU-US trading relationship still suffers from numerous obstacles, preventing it reaching its full potential to provide growth and jobs. It has been estimated that the deal could bring an extra £10bn to the UK annually, which would give a huge boost to jobs in our economy at a time when we are still suffering with the effects of the economic crisis.”
There is little evidence for this, and even that is poor. The European Commission’s own impact assessment admits that a 0.5 per cent increase in growth would be “optimistic”, and independent research suggests that a meagre 0.01 per cent increase in the growth rate over 10 years is more likely. The North American Free Trade Agreement between the US, Canada and Mexico led to a net LOSS of almost a million jobs in the US. You have to ask why this MEP is arguing against the facts.
“That is an extra £400 to every UK household and while some reports criticise the economic focus, I would argue that this is exactly the kind of stimulus package we should be focusing on,” she continued. Again, this is inaccurate. Every household will not gain an extra £400 because of business deals carried out between very few, very large, corporations. In fact, much larger amounts of money will go to the kind of people who have too much of it already.
“ISDS is a system that allows investors to initiate proceedings directly against a government should they believe that their property has been expropriated illegally, that is, not in conformance with the laws of that country itself,” she continued, skimming over the possibility that a legal challenge could be mounted against changes in a country’s laws – such as Labour’s planned repeal of the Health and Social Care Act that allowed the creeping privatisation of the NHS, if the Conservatives are defeated in the 2015 UK general election.
“The Conservatives in the European Parliament support the inclusion of an ISDS chapter in the agreement, because even with developed countries it ensures certainty for our investors, including SMEs.”
She does not explain what that certainty may be. Is it the certainty that they can run roughshod over their workers? That their profits will take precedence over our health? What about certainty for our citizens?
“Rest assured that this is not a mechanism that will allow for fundamental laws of the EU, such as the REACH legislation on chemicals or the Tobacco Products Directive, to be overturned by a foreign company.” That does not offer any consolation if the laws of the UK do not remain similarly inviolate.
“The EU and its Member States will and must remain able to adopt and enforce, in accordance with their own and EU laws, measures necessary to pursue legitimate public policy objectives in the fields of social and environmental standards, security, the stability of the financial system, and public health and safety.” This seems encouraging, but is overshadowed by what this Conservative MEP has already stated.
“The European Parliament, as well as the UK Government, will also have to give final approval to the deal.”
This is why we need a sceptical European Parliament, and a critical UK Parliament when the deal comes to Westminster for ratification.
That is the information provided by the Welsh MEPs. Labour and the Green Party will stand up for you, while the Conservative Party and UKIP will stand up for the few.
Put in that way, it isn’t a choice at all.
But is the electorate well-enough informed to make the appropriate decision?
This is critically important for the general election next year, because timing is everything.
If any of you were in any doubt about Labour’s position on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the USA and the EU, this Tweet from Andy Burnham should clarify:
“Crucial commitment from @Ed_Miliband today: ‘The next Labour government will work to make sure the NHS is protected from EU competition law’.”
This is important because the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) part of the agreement would allow any foreign company operating in the UK to make a claim against the government for loss of future profits resulting from any regulatory action by the government, such as new legislation. Such claims would be considered by an unelected, unaccountable tribunal composed of three corporate lawyers whose decisions are likely to favour the corporations and would override national laws – and it is widely agreed that the TTIP will be used by our Conservative-led government as a means of permanently locking-in its detrimental changes to the National Health Service.
Labour’s MEPs have already confirmed that they have no intention of supporting this part of the trade agreement; now we have confirmation that only a Labour government in the UK would protect the NHS from the irreparable harm being planned by the Conservative Party.
It is ironic that, if you go to the BBC News website and find their ‘politics’ page, you will see an article entitled Labour makes no sense on Europe, says David Cameron.
In fact, Labour is talking far more sense – in terms of protecting the people of this country – than the Conservatives. Leaving the EU won’t stop us having to conform with European standards, if we want to trade with those countries; and any decision to stop immigration will be met, undoubtedly, with the expulsion of our own 2.5 million expats from the EU countries where they have settled. We will be more crowded, not less.
If the British people want to vote on a way to stop European laws from harming us, then we need look no further than the 2015 general election.
The European Union’s trade commissioner, Karel De Gucht, reckons he’s going to consult the public over the controversional Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – the EU/US free trade agreement.
He says he is determined to strike the right balance between protecting EU firms’ investment interests and upholding governments’ right to regulate in the public interest.
Bear in mind, this is for the investment part of the deal, which includes investment protection and the red-hot disputed subject of investor-to-state dispute settlement, where firms would be allowed to sue governments if regulations got in the way of their profits, as the deal currently stands.
A proposed text for the investment part of the talks will be published in early March.
“Governments must always be free to regulate so they can protect people and the environment. But they must also find the right balance and treat investors fairly, so they can attract investment,” said Mr De Gucht.
“Some existing arrangements have caused problems in practice, allowing companies to exploit loopholes where the legal text has been vague.
“I know some people in Europe have genuine concerns about this part of the EU-US deal. Now I want them to have their say… TTIP will firmly uphold EU member states’ right to regulate in the public interest.”
Do you believe him?
The European Commission wants to use TTIP to improve provisions already in place that protect investments by EU-based companies in the US, and vice versa.
In practice, we are told, there would be a require for this protection to defer to states’ right to regulate in the public’s interest.
There would also be new and improved rules, including a code of conduct, to ensure arbitrators are chosen fairly and act impartially, and to open up their proceedings to the public. This comes after significant unrest about arbitrators being chosen exclusively from big business, with a natural bias towards the interests of their employers.
It seems “no other part of the negotiations is affected by this public consultation and the TTIP negotiations will continue as planned”.
Is this the only part of the deal that affects the public interest, then?
I don’t know. The TTIP negotiations have been shrouded in mystery since they began last June. Can anyone outside the talks – and those taking part are sworn to secrecy – say they are an expert?
Since the talks began, the Commission has held three rounds of consultations with stakeholders – big businesses operating in both Europe and the USA “to gather the views and wishes of the public and interested parties across Europe”, it says here.
“The Commission has also done public consultations before the start of the TTIP negotiations.” Have you taken part in any such negotiations?
The rationale behind the talks is that the EU is the world’s largest foreign direct investor and the biggest recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the world, so it must ensure that EU companies are well-protected when they invest in countries outside the EU. This involves reciprocal agreements to protect foreign companies.
“Investment is essential for growth, for jobs and for creating the wealth that pays for our public services, our schools, our hospitals and our pensions,” the argument goes. But who gets the wealth? The people who work to make it – whose living and working conditions are likely to be reduced dramatically to lowest-common-denominator terms? Or the company bosses who are ironing out the terms of this agreement while most of us are being told to look the other way?
Let’s look at an example of this in action. According to OpenDemocracy.net, the TTIP talks “could see England’s NHS tied into a privatised model semi-permanently.
“The idea [is] that the Health and Social Care Act was developed to allow foreign transnational corporations to profit from NHS privatisation.
“Even worse is the idea that, once passed, an international trade agreement will leave us irreversibly committed to privatising the NHS. Even with a change of government and the repeal of the Act, we’d be facing the insurmountable obstacle of international competition laws.”
The article demands that the government must be clear with the public – will our health service be opened to multinational business as part of this trade agreement?
Leftie politics sheet the New Statesman agrees: “This will open the floodgates for private healthcare providers that have made dizzying levels of profits from healthcare in the United States, while lobbying furiously against any attempts by President Obama to provide free care for people living in poverty. With the help of the Conservative government and soon the EU, these companies will soon be let loose, freed to do the same in Britain.
“The agreement will provide a legal heavy hand to the corporations seeking to grind down the health service. It will act as a Transatlantic bridge between the Health and Social Care Act in the UK, which forces the NHS to compete for contracts, and the private companies in the US eager to take it on for their own gain.
“It gives the act international legal backing and sets the whole shift to privatisation in stone because once it is made law, it will be irreversible.
“Once these ISDS tools are in place, lucrative contracts will be underwritten, even where a private provider is failing patients and the CCG wants a contract cancelled. In this case, the provider will be able to sue a CCG for future loss of earnings, causing the loss of vast sums of taxpayer money on legal and administrative costs.
“Even more worrying is that, once the TTIP is enacted, repealing the Health and Social Care Act in the UK will become almost impossible.”
The public has the democratic right to contest the agreement, and fight for a health service that protects them, the Statesman says, “but how can they when MEPs do nothing to inform opinion or gather support back home? The NHS is in a very precarious position. It seems that soon, with the help of Brussels, its fate will be sealed.”
Would you like your MEP to speak up for you – in other words, to do what he or she was elected to do and actually represent your interests? Then why not get in touch and ask why they’ve been so quiet about this for so long? It’s easy – you can find their contact details here.
The EU has released a ‘factsheet’ summarising how it would like you to understand changes to existing investment protection rules and the ISDS system.
The previous Vox Political article about TTIP is here.
The Coalition government has finally put its cards on the table, calling for the completion of a ‘free trade’ agreement with the United States of America that will end democracy as we know it today.
Do you think this statement is needlessly hyperbolic? In fact, it probably does not make the point strongly enough!
You will 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.
Profit will rule.
Also threatened would be any other public service that has been privatised by this and previous governments, along with any that are privatised in the future; all would fall under the proposed agreement. So the debate over energy bills would be lost because gas and electricity provision would come under the agreement, along with water and the Royal Mail, among others.
Speaking today (Wednesday), Osborne announced: “We should set ourselves the urgent task of completing the transatlantic trade and investment partnership – the EU-US Free Trade agreement.
“This would be the world’s biggest ever trade deal – together our economies would account for half of global output.
“The Commission estimate it would boost the European economy by 120 billion euros a year – that’s over 500 euros for every family in the EU. It would bring £10 billion pounds a year to the UK alone.
“Some in the European Parliament talk about stalling this Trans-Atlantic Partnership to pursue other agendas.
“But when a quarter of young people looking for work in Europe are unemployed, this would be a complete betrayal.
“We need to create jobs, increase trade, support business growth – we’ve got the European tools to help with the job, let’s get on and use them.”
Did you notice that, for him, it’s all about the money? Yes – he mentions job creation. But these jobs would be provided under terms dictated by the hugely powerful global corporations. Their bosses would take the profits and ground-level employees would be treated like – well, like Orwell’s metaphor for the future: a giant boot, stamping on your face, forever.
You may have heard very little about this – and for a good reason. The architects of the planned agreement want the deal done before anybody realises what is going on and organises robust protest against it.
So let’s give you some of the facts:
The US/EU Trade and Investment partnership (TTIP), called Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) in the US, is a bilateral trade agreement between the US and the EU. It goes much further than any previous EU trade agreement in deregulating, in establishing the rights of transnational corporations and in undermining the ability of governments to control corporations.
It is set to completely change our society, and is already in process, as with the NHS.
‘Trade’ and ‘international trade agreements’ are different. While most people would consider trade to be good thing, international trade agreements give rights to transnational corporations while reducing states’ rights to regulate them, thus reducing democracy.
All free trade agreements include goods, services and intellectual property rights – but the additional elements of the TTIP that are the main part of the agreement are much more far-reaching. These are regulatory harmonisation, investor state dispute settlement and the intention to establish global rules via these trade agreements.
‘Regulatory harmonisation’ means ‘harmonising’ regulation between the EU and US, downwards to the most lax form, across all areas, to suit transnational corporations. This will mean the degrading of regulation on health and safety, food, environment, labour standards, privacy and much more, including financial services regulation. The NHS is now already ‘harmonised’ with the US corporate-access public health model – and this was always the Conservative Party’s plan.
TTIP will also include ‘Investor State Dispute Settlement’ (ISDS), allowing transnational corporations to sue governments directly for the loss of any future profits resulting from any government action, at any level, such as new legislation. Where ISDS is already included in ‘trade’ deals, it is shown to lead either to big payouts from governments to transnational corporations or to deter governments from legislating – the ‘chill’ effect.
In theory, this means that if a national government had banned a product – a toy, perhaps – on the grounds that it was harmful to health because it contained lead – for example – the manufacturer could then sue that government for infringement of the TTIP. The national government would lose, and our children would come down with lead poisoning.
In practice, we can see a classic example in the current lawsuit taken out by Philip Morris, the antipodean tobacco giant, against the Australian government over the law that enforces plain packaging on all tobacco products there. The law was enacted to discourage people from smoking – an act with proven health risks – but it seems likely that Philip Morris will win because Australia’s government has restricted its ability to make massive profits.
TTIP and the TPP are intended to set global ‘trade’ rules which will eventually become the norms for the multilateral World Trade Organisation, but formulated outside of a structure that allows other countries to jointly resist the corporate-dominated agenda.
As with all bilateral ‘trade’ agreements, TTIP negotiations and agreement texts are secret until the negotiations are completed – ensuring that the public cannot protest against them until it is too late.
Trade agreements are effectively permanent.
Although international ‘trade’ agreements are negotiated government-to-government (by the Trade Commission for EU member states), they are promoted and driven by transnational corporations, which benefit from states being bound by international trade law – these are the the same transnational financial service corporations that caused the global financial crisis.
As part of the TTIP, a framework for the ongoing ‘harmonisation’ of all future regulation is being put in place with the setting up of a Regulatory Co-operation Council. This non-elected Council will be able to override national and EU legislation.
‘Public procurement’ – government spending – is a major target in the international trade agenda.
The TTIP is being rushed through, with the aim of completion by the end of this year (2014).
TTIP will include provision for the movement of temporary workers across borders. This will inevitably mean cheap labour, and the undermining of working conditions and labour rights, especially in a context of degraded regulation. These are the jobs George Osborne wants for you!
The Trade Commission has set up a communications ‘spin’ unit to manage public opinion on the TTIP.
Once TTIP negotiations are completed, the European Parliament will only have the right to say yes or no, to the deal, with no amendment allowed. It will then, as with all EU ‘trade’ agreements, be provisionally implemented before it comes to member state parliaments for ratification.
In the US, the government is seeking ‘Fast Track’ provision or Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) from the Congress. If granted, US representatives will similarly only be allowed to pass the agreement or not, without amendment.
You may wish to examine the following documents for further evidence:
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