Leaders of almost every major political party in the United Kingdom have signed an appeal not to allow a transatlantic trade deal known as TTIP become the Trojan horse that allows American business interests to take over the NHS.
The appeal, organised by the trade union Unite, has achieved the rare feat of bringing together all of Northern Ireland’s main political parties. TTIP, or the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, would free up trade between the US and the EU, by allowing companies from either side of the Atlantic to operate under the same rules.
One of its most controversial elements would be the creation of a new supranational court, the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) through which foreign investors could sue governments, or the EU, over any action or legislation that hurt their businesses. It is feared that an American private healthcare firm which was prevented from buying up part of the NHS would be able to go to the ISDS and claim millions of pounds in compensation from the British government for lost business.
The appeal drafted by Unite says: “TTIP must not restrict the scope for decisions by any level of government, public authority or NHS organisation relating to public healthcare [and] must not give US investors new rights that they could use to sue any level of government, public authority or NHS organisation because of policies relating to healthcare.”
The appeal has also been signed by the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, the Ukip leader Nigel Farage, the Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, and Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood, and by Peter Robinson of the Democratic Unionist Party, and Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness.
The organisers, from Unite, say that they approached the Conservatives asking for support but were refused, and are awaiting a reply from the Liberal Democrats.
Ms Sturgeon has also written to David Cameron saying: “I urge the Government to ensure that the NHS is fully exempt from TTIP and, if that is not the case, to use its veto at the European Council to prevent TTIP progressing.”
Unite’s general secretary Len McCluskey said: “David Cameron needs to add action to warm words. Expert legal advice confirms that there are clear dangers arising from TTIP that could impact the NHS unless political leaders are ready to use the veto.”
Negotiations on TTIP began in February. The 11th round of talks was completed in Miami earlier this week. According to the charity War on Want, there is little prospect of a deal being signed before President Barack Obama leaves the White House in 2017.
The War on Want trade campaigner Mark Dearn said: “TTIP negotiations are not going as planned. EU governments would be better off listening to their constituents than continuing with these secret negotiations the people of Europe do not want.”