Jeremy Corbyn’s public commitment that a Labour government will veto the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a significant step towards ending the controversial EU-US trade deal, and a major blow for the European Commission on the eve of the UK referendum.
Corbyn’s pledge comes at the end of a disastrous month for TTIP, in which a stunning leak of the agreement’s draft chapters revealed the full threat that it poses. In the ensuing uproar, French president François Hollande and German vice-chancellor Sigmar Gabriel have each raised the possibility of abandoning the EU-US agreement altogether. With general elections in both France and Germany next year, no politician wants to be left defending the indefensible.
Yet Corbyn’s statement is the first outright rejection of TTIP from a major European social democratic party, and it sends a clear message that the political elite cannot continue to ignore the will of the European people as they have done up to now. Over 3.4 million citizens from all 28 EU member states have now signed the European Citizens’ Initiative opposing TTIP and the parallel EU-Canada deal CETA, in what is recognised as the largest such movement in EU history.
Two new official studies of the EU-US deal have underlined why it is so universally unpopular. A report from the European Parliament’s policy department entitled ‘TTIP and Jobs’ has predicted that more than a million EU citizens will be forced out of work as a direct result of TTIP, including over 150,000 in the UK. Shortly afterwards, the official TTIP impact assessment published by the European Commission confirmed that a minimum of 600,000 Europeans will lose their jobs as a result of TTIP, and twice that many if the full deal goes through.
The 394-page assessment also noted that the EU and USA will emit an extra 21 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere if TTIP is concluded, directly undermining commitments coming out of last year’s Paris Agreement on climate change. The authors kept their strongest warning for the section on the public health impacts of TTIP, where they noted that the increased consumption of cheap alcohol, tobacco and processed foods that will result from the deal is in direct contradiction of the human right to health.
The only person in denial of all the bad publicity surrounding TTIP is the EU trade commissioner responsible for driving it forward, Cecilia Malmström. The woman who famously said that she ‘does not take her mandate from the European people’ told this week’s EU Business Summit in Brussels that she has no intention of submitting TTIP or CETA to public approval, commenting: ‘We can’t have local referenda on all trade agreements if we want to be serious.’
Worse still, Malmström is trying to undermine the democratic process still further by preventing MPs in the national parliaments of Europe from having a vote on whether to ratify the EU-Canada deal. Against the express will of EU governments, the unelected trade commissioner is arguing for that decision to be taken in Brussels alone – although she has postponed making the call public until after 23 June, for fear that it will play badly in the UK referendum.
Three weeks from today, we will know the result of that referendum. If the British people vote to leave the EU, it will be in large part due to the contempt for the democratic process shown by unelected bureaucrats such as Cecilia Malmström.
Jeremy Corbyn has listened to the people and rejected TTIP. The leaders of Europe would do well to follow his lead.
John Hilary is Executive Director of War on Want and author of the introductory guide to TTIP that has now been translated into 12 European languages.
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