TTIP debate in Euro Parliament is cancelled. Political chicanery?

Janet Downs's picture
It’s not often the Greens and UKIP are in agreement – but TTIP has brought them together. That’s because the president of the European Parliament cancelled the TTIP vote due today. According to the BBC the stumbling block was food safety.

TTIP has the potential to damage state provision of education (and other public services) in the UK as I’ve written before. But the TTIP debate will not take place as scheduled. This has the whiff of political chicanery.

Green MEP Keith Taylor said: “The decision to cancel the vote on TTIP stinks of political parties in the European Parliament running scared of the huge public opposition to TTIP. The deal represents a monumental power grab by corporations and it must be stopped in its tracks.”

UKIP MEP Nigel Farage tweeted ‘17 years as an MEP and never seen such public disquiet re: an EU issue. The result? Debate & vote on TTIP suspended. They've got the wind up.’

Andy Burnham, prospective Labour leader, has distanced himself from Labour support for TTIP and joined UKIP in criticising the deal. But, according to Breitbart London, Labour and Conservative MEPs supported postponing the debate due today thereby denying a full discussion of the issue.

38Degrees urges people concerned about TTIP to contact their MEPs.
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Paul Reeve's picture
Thu, 11/06/2015 - 08:35

And here's the reply I received when I contacted my MEP

"Today the European Parliament has postponed its vote on the EU-US trade deal "TTIP".

Labour MEPs have consistently said we oppose any TTIP which includes the NHS or "ISDS" secret corporate courts.

I personally was one of the co-signatories of the amendment 27 with 50 Labour and Socialist colleagues as well as MEPs from some other parties which categorically ruled out any ISDS.

To the campaigners, well done for making this an energetic campaign on an issue of such importance, but I have been surprised to receive so many emails and social media messages asking me to vote for my own amendment! Please give credit where it is due, and help us to have a well-informed debate which is needed if we are to have a chance to build the coalition of support necessary to win.

One campaign group even put me personally on a Twitter list titled "TTIP-supporting MEPs" - and you can understand that I do feel misrepresented when I read such things.

That is why political opponents who want to use the TTIP debate to attack Labour, are doing a dis-service to the campaign.

I have made my opposition to any TTIP which includes the NHS or ISDS clear numerous times over the past year, in public meetings, letters and emails. This has included meetings on joint platforms with 38 degrees at the Trades Council in King's Lynn, with War on Want at a meeting of the South East Region TUC, with Global Justice UK in a debate in Cambridge and on many other occasions.

I do respect that there are some who are critical of TTIP because they are against trade and hence against every trade deal including TTIP. But that is not my view nor can it ever be Labour's position. As a supporter of the fair trade movement, a campaigner with trade unions for binding labour and environmental standards in international trade agreements and knowing that jobs and business in my own constituency depend on trade - I want to reform international trade rules not stop international trade.

Indeed had the amendments we proposed passed, I wanted to vote for the TTIP report in the European Parliament, and still would hope to be able to do so. I fear that some would represent that as a "vote for TTIP", as happened when my Labour colleagues voted for a draft of the report at parliament's committee stage. It is not.

The European Parliament cannot vote to stop the TTIP negotiations. Our powers are to influence the negotiations by threatening to vote against its final ratification if our demands are not met.

Therefore to vote against a TTIP report, as long as the demands are the right ones - no backdoor privatisation of public services and no secret ISDS corporate courts - would be self-defeating. It would render the European Parliament silent and simply give the EU negotiators free rein to continue on their current course. It would signal to them that there is no firm majority in the European Parliament which could challenge their current position in the future.

I know many anti-TTIP campaigners simply want me to say I am opposed to TTIP. But I ask you to understand that voting against the report would be a suicide strategy for the very concerns you have. That cannot be my position.

However, if the 'red lines' on the NHS and on ISDS are not supported, I would vote against the report and that has always been my promise.

One final point if you read information from Labour's political opponents who want to use the TTIP debate to attack Labour rather than form a broad coalition on TTIP: why don't they attack Conservatives and Liberal Democrats instead?

Conservatives said they would protect the NHS in TTIP and were then exposed for failing to do so - I personally challenged the Tory Trade Minister on this. Not one Liberal Democrat was prepared to sign our amendment categorically rejecting ISDS.
The UK Independence Party Trade Spokesperson wrote an article in favour of TTIP, and they explain their sudden conversion against only because they want unrestricted free trade.

Not only do I respectfully ask campaigners to give credit where it is due -but also to hold to account those where certainly it is not.

Thank-you to all my constituents who have contacted me - far too many to do justice with individual responses to all. You are right to care about TTIP. Even if you didn't know before, I hope I have demonstrated that I care too.

Richard Howitt MEP
Labour Member of the European Parliament
10 June 2015."

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 11/06/2015 - 11:19

Thanks, Paul, that's a useful response from Richard Howitt MEP. However, the 'red lines' extend beyond the NHS to education It's important to remember the last Government's international education strategy policy recommended that education be treated as a 'priority' in trade agreements being negotiated by the EU.

It's good Howitt categorically rejects ISDS.

On UKIP's opposition, the FT wrote 'Ukip is mustard-keen on free trade as long as the EU is not negotiating on Britain’s behalf.' According to the article, UKIP says it would be possible for UK to negotiate its own trade agreement with the US if it were no longer part of Europe, but, the writer argues, 'such agreements with the US have progressively less to do with free trade and more with restricting competition at the behest of well-organised American industry lobbies.'

John Mountford's picture
Thu, 11/06/2015 - 13:26

Well, Paul, at least you got a reply from your MEP!!!

Janet is right, though, with no specific reference to education, we WILL find ourselves in the same situation as they are in America - big business with their fat, greedy fingers in the pie, determining the future direction of education reform but really only interested in the money. We all know that any denial form our politicians that 'fro-profit' provision is something they are not planning to introduce, means nothing. Remember, a day is a long time in politics!!

Having researched its effect, I do agree that ISDS is certainly the main source of threat to trade and services. It's my feeling that by ordinary people campaigning against this element and winning the day, the negotiators will not have the same interest in the deal.

It's so important that the campaign is supported. If this deal is as complex as Richard Hewitt suggests it would be so easy for people to say 'This is beyond me,'and leave it to 'the experts'. Gervase Phinn, a great servant of real education, spoke at a training session I attended as an Additional Inspector. He described an 'expert' thus, X is an unknown quantity and a 'spert' is a drip under pressure. That about sums it up for me!

Paul Reeve's picture
Fri, 12/06/2015 - 08:18

In fact, John, I received a reply from the Tory MEP as well which I read and deleted.
I was heartened to read the letter from three Green Party MEPs, from which I quote below, here
"Greens have long opposed this trade deal as little more than a corporate power grab and certainly not in the public interest. The volume of amendments put forward is an indication of the passion this deal has aroused, the political divisions it has opened up, and the degree of public opposition.
Of particular concern is the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism, potentially allowing corporations to sue governments over any legislation or actions that threaten their profits. We do not believe corporations should have the right to challenge democratic decisions taken in the public interest which serve to safeguard our health, environment, social and labour standards. This is why Greens tabled an amendment calling explicitly for the exclusion of ISDS from TTIP."
Enjoyed the definition of Expert!

John Mountford's picture
Fri, 12/06/2015 - 21:33

This is the response I got from William Dartmouth.

The quick response is that UKIP MEPs are voting against TTIP and also the inclusion of ISDS in TTIP.

As you will have seen the big political groups voted in favour of postponing the debate on TTIP yesterday and earlier this week President Schulz (member of the S&D group where Labour sits) decided to postpone the vote on TTIP. This was against our wishes. No doubt the big political groups in favour of TTIP will try to find more support for the deal and prepare compromises on the text. Perhaps at the same time they are hoping that the pressure on TTIP will disappear.

I will ask for an extraordinary meeting in INTA in such a way that we could vote on TTIP in the July plenary. I am not very hopeful of succeeding though as the big groups prefer to postpone until September.

I can only encourage you to get in contact with the MEPs in favour of ISDS and TTIP and keep the pressure on them.

Very best William Dartmouth UKIP MEP

The reality is that unless people keep up the pressure on 'the big players' we will all end up with a deal that is likely to erode democratic decision-making for the future. It is essential that people understand the implications for all our public services and that education, in particular, is ripe for exploitation.

Guest's picture
Sun, 14/06/2015 - 15:43

This another classic example of how the voice of ordinary voters nationally or pan-nationally can have a significant impact, and why groups such as 38 Degrees, and are so important to a healthy democracy. The latter organised a drive that gathered over 2,000,000 signatures.

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