The “horrible” planned TTIP trade treaty is not a good reason to leave the European Union, Caroline Lucas has said.
The Green Party MP said she was strongly against the controversial trade agreement, which is being negotiated in secret between the EU and US, but that Brexit would not save Britain from its effects.
She said the British government was one of the main driving forces behind the treaty at EU level and that outside the bloc a Conservative government would likely pursue similar policies.
“People say ‘how can you support the EU when the EU is negotiating this horrible trade treaty with the US’ – and it is a horrible trade treaty,” she said.
“But you know what? David Cameron and our government is one of the chief cheerleaders for TTIP. The idea that if we left the EU we’d have a lovely, cuddly trade policy in its place is a fantasy.”
Little is known for certain about TTIP because of the secretive way it is being drawn up. However, leaks from negotiations suggest it will include a system called “investor-state dispute settlement” (ISDS) included in similar agreements around the world.
ISDS establishes an international quasi-court that multinational corporations can use to sue national governments that enact policies that harm their profits or contravene trade rules.
At the last election Labour said it would exempt the NHS from the effects of TTIP, but there are concerns such an agreement could be used to push through privatisations or outsourcing through the back door.
Figures in the Leave campaign have previously suggested that outside the EU Britain could negotiate free trade agreements with countries around the world, including the United States.
Ms Lucas, who was speaking at the launch of Another Europe is Possible – an alternative remain campaign that seeks to change the EU – said the best way to defeat TTIP and deals like it was to fight against it within the EU.
“If you put right wing bigotry into the EU, surprise, surprise, you get right wing bigotry out. That is what we have to change," she said
“The best chance of fighting TTIP is working with our colleagues across Europe, three million of whom have signed a petition against TTIP. 250,000 of whom were marching in the streets of Berlin.
“The French government themselves are now looking as if they might block it too. That is our best way of defeating TTIP.
“We need to build a political momentum here for a better Europe – but let’s make that distinction between the institutions and the current right wing policies of the governments that sit around it.”
More generally, Ms Lucas said the EU needed to “change its end goals too, away from greater competition and privatisation towards more cooperation and stronger public services”.
“I think we need to distinguish between the institutions of the EU and the very broad policies that are coming out of it right now because there’s a majority of right-wing governments sitting around that table right now,” he added.
Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz suggested in March this year that Britain would be better off leaving the EU if TTIP passed.
He described the agreement as “a massive rewriting of the rules with no public discussion”.
“The dangers to our society are very significant,” he said at the time.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has however also said the treaty is best fought from within the EU.
The in-out referendum on EU membership will be held on 23 June this year. Phone polls suggest a lead for the Remain campaign, while online polls show a closer race.
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