Campaigners against the controversial TTIP trade deal with the US fear the UK will negotiate an “even more disastrous” agreement after it leaves the European Union.
TTIP has provoked opposition across Europe with concerns it will open up public sector organisations – such as the NHS – to privatisation, force food safety and environmental regulations to be watered down or scraped, and cause unemployment as jobs move to the US where labour standards and trade union rights are lower.
European politicians, including French President François Hollande and Germany’s agriculture minister, Christian Schmidt, have signalled their opposition to the US’s current proposals with Mr Hollande saying France was opposed to “unregulated free trade”.
But given the smaller size of the UK market, it would have less negotiating power in talks with the US than the EU.
And Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now, said the “right-wing lurch of Brexit” could result in Britain signing up to “TTIP on steroids”.
“Alongside US lobbyists, the British government has done everything possible to push the most extreme and toxic version of TTIP,” he said.
“So there’s every reason to suspect that the UK will look to develop a bilateral deal with the USA that could end up being even more disastrous for labour protections, consumer standards and public services than TTIP was going to be.”
He said TTIP was “on the verge of defeat” because of the level of opposition across Europe.
“Working alongside civil society, social movements and progressive MEPs from across Europe, we were in a really strong position to derail TTIP,” Mr Dearden said.
“Brexit means that we need to redouble our efforts to stop the UK’s free market fundamentalists from enabling massive corporate power grabs through bilateral trade deals.
“Progressives on both sides of debate need to work towards a trade framework built on equality, fairness for workers and the redistribution of wealth towards those communities who have rebelled so vehemently against the political establishment this morning.”
It is unclear if TTIP will apply to countries that are not in the EU but which are members of the common market, such as Norway. The Norwegian model has been suggested as a possible option for a post-Brexit Britain.
John Hilary, executive director of War on Want, said anti-TTIP activists would now have to refocus their campaign.
“The UK is going to have to renegotiate all of its trade deals. It’s up to us as activists to press for the positive trade agenda we never got in the EU,” he said.
The 6 reasons why we should be scared of TTIP
The 6 reasons why we should be scared of TTIP
1/6 The NHS
Public services, especially the NHS, are in the firing line. One of the main aims of TTIP is to open up Europe’s public health, education and water services to US companies. This could essentially mean the privatisation of the NHS. The European Commission has claimed that public services will be kept out of TTIP. However, according to the Huffington Post, the UK Trade Minister Lord Livingston has admitted that talks about the NHS were still on the table
2/6 Food and environmental safety
TTIP’s ‘regulatory convergence’ agenda will seek to bring EU standards on food safety and the environment closer to those of the US. But US regulations are much less strict, with 70 per cent of all processed foods sold in US supermarkets now containing genetically modified ingredients. By contrast, the EU allows virtually no GM foods. The US also has far laxer restrictions on the use of pesticides. It also uses growth hormones in its beef which are restricted in Europe due to links to cancer. US farmers have tried to have these restrictions lifted repeatedly in the past through the World Trade Organisation and it is likely that they will use TTIP to do so again
3/6 Banking regulations
TTIP cuts both ways. The UK, under the influence of the all-powerful City of London, is thought to be seeking a loosening of US banking regulations. America’s financial rules are tougher than ours. They were put into place after the financial crisis to directly curb the powers of bankers and avoid a similar crisis happening again. TTIP, it is feared, will remove those restrictions, effectively handing all those powers back to the bankers
Remember ACTA (the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement)? It was thrown out by a massive majority in the European Parliament in 2012 after a huge public backlash against what was rightly seen as an attack on individual privacy where internet service providers would be required to monitor people’s online activity. Well, it’s feared that TTIP could be bringing back ACTA’s central elements, proving that if the democratic approach doesn’t work, there’s always the back door. An easing of data privacy laws and a restriction of public access to pharmaceutical companies’ clinical trials are also thought to be on the cards
The EU has admitted that TTIP will probably cause unemployment as jobs switch to the US, where labour standards and trade union rights are lower. It has even advised EU members to draw on European support funds to compensate for the expected unemployment. Examples from other similar bi-lateral trade agreements around the world support the case for job losses. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the US, Canada and Mexico caused the loss of one million US jobs over 12 years, instead of the hundreds of thousands of extra that were promised
Dave Thompson/Getty Images
TTIP’s biggest threat to society is its inherent assault on democracy. One of the main aims of TTIP is the introduction of Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS), which allow companies to sue governments if those governments’ policies cause a loss of profits. In effect it means unelected transnational corporations can dictate the policies of democratically elected governments
But Mr Hilary sounded a positive note, saying the UK government was democratically accountable to the people where the European Commission was not.
“For us, the situation is now a different one. The powers are going to be brought back to Britain,” he said.
“The future is ours to claim. It’s an uphill struggle because we know that in this country traditionally we have had the most neoliberal governments in Europe, whether they be Tory or New Labour.”
He said the future was unclear as the UK would now have to negotiate a new relationship with the EU.
But he insisted: “Brexit means TTIP will not apply to the UK, that’s absolutely clear.”