Tag: TTIP

Urgent: UK-US trade inquiry and consultation quietly launched by select committee, deadline for submissions this Monday

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A Commons Select Committee launched a public inquiry on 2 February. The International Trade Committee invited the public to send their views regarding the upcoming UK-US trade deal. The Committee will use those ideas to form recommendations for the government’s approach to the deal. 

However, in addition to the fact that the inquiry wasn’t widely publicised, the time scale given for responding is less than a month. The deadline for written submissions is (unbelievably) Monday 27 February 2017

The Conservatives wholly endorsed the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which would have enshrined the rights of corporations under International Law, and restrict future governments in overturning the changes through the threat of expensive legal action. These are the largest trade agreements in history, and yet they are NOT open for review, debate or amendment by Parliaments or the public.

The agreements would have shifted the balance of power between corporations and the state – effectively creating a corporatocracy. It would have NO democratic foundation or restraint whatsoever. The main thrust of the agreement was that corporations will be able to actively exploit their increased rights through the TPP and TTIP to extend the interests of the corporation, which is mostly to maximise their profits.

Human rights and public interests certainly would not have been a government priority. Six hundred US corporate advisors have had input into the TTIP. The draft text was not made available to the public, press or policy makers. The level of secrecy around the trade agreement was unparalleled. The majority of US Congress were also kept in the dark while representatives of US corporations were consulted and privy to the details.

A major concern for many of us was that many of the regulations likely to be affected under TTIP are designed to protect our health and the environment by setting safe levels of pesticides in food and chemicals in our toiletries and household cleaning products for example. These safeguards will be eroded or eliminated, potentially exposing people to greater risks of unsafe, unregulated commercial goods to support the interests of multinationals.

The infamous TTIP (and the EU-Canada trade deal CETA) provide likely blueprints for future trade deals. So we also have a good idea of what kind of potential dangers for our public services, such as the NHS, lie ahead. Trump, like the Conservative government here in the UK, is a strong advocate of deregulation and “free market competition” – which effectively means that (even more) of our public services are at risk of being sold off to big multinational companies.

The Conservative privatisation programme has been an unmitigated failure. We have witnessed scandalous price rigging, massive job losses and job insecurity, decreased wages and poorer working conditions, profoundly decreased standards in service delivery, disempowerment of our unions, and above all, at terrible cost to many citizens. But then the Conservatives will always swing policy towards benefiting private companies and not the public, as we know. In Britain, privatisation is primarily driven by the neoliberal New Right’s ideological motives, to “roll back the frontiers of the State” and to “increase efficiency”. 

SumOfUs – a global campaign that fights for people over profits, and is committed to curbing the growing power of corporations – have drafted six key demands for a better, more just trade deal with the aim of “letting Theresa May know right from the start that we won’t let her turn Brexit into a corporate takeover.” 

The SumOfUs community has urged the UK government to uphold the following principles in negotiating a trade agreement with the US: 

1. Labour, climate and human rights agreements and how they’re implemented in UK law should take precedence over the trade agreement.

2. Violations of human rights, workers’ rights and environmental protection should be sanctionable, and those sanctions meaningful and effective. 

3. Negotiations need to happen transparently and inclusively. Text proposals as well as consolidated treaty texts need to be published to allow for public scrutiny and robust debate. Corporations must not be granted privileged access.

4. No special rights for investors. The deal should not enable US corporations to sue the UK over policy in the public interest that threatens their profits.

5. All public services must be exempt and protected from corporate takeover. 

6. No race to the bottom on regulation – all laws should be harmonised to the highest standard and should always allow a party to go beyond the levels of protections agreed upon.

You can visit SumOfUs site to add your name to their message to the International Trade Committee, and endorse the six outlined principles. 

The inquiry is to examine the potential for a UK-US trade agreement, the opportunities and challenges any agreement might present and the implications for the production and sale of goods and services on both sides of the Atlantic. It will make recommendations to the Government on how it should approach trade relations with the US. 

Interested organisations or individuals are invited to submit written evidence to the Committee. (Quickly.)

Terms of reference

The Committee is particularly interested in the following:

  • what the UK’s priorities and objectives should be in negotiating any such agreement;
  • the possible impacts (positive and negative) on specific sectors of the UK economy from such an agreement;
  • the extent to which any agreement could and should open up markets in services, including public services; 
  • the extent to which any agreement could and should open up markets in public procurement;
  • how any agreement should approach regulation, including regulatory harmonisation;
  • what dispute-resolution mechanism should form part of any such agreement; and
  • what involvement, if any, the UK should seek to have in the North American Free Trade Area or any future regional free trade agreement involving the USA.

Send a written submission to the International Trade Committee

Update: The deadline for written submissions is extended to Tuesday 7 March 2017. Written evidence should be submitted via the inquiry page, so you will still have to act quickly to have your say.

Chair’s comments

On launching the inquiry, Committee Chair Angus MacNeil MP commented:

“It seems highly likely that a trade deal with the US will be this Government’s first step in their attempts to reshape the UK’s economic relationship with the rest of the world. This will be a tough test. The UK will be entering negotiations led by a newly formed department. They may feel the need for a deal to show the rest of the world, and domestic audience, that the UK is open for business. And any outline agreement could impact on how our negotiations progress with the EU. 

The US might not be expected to offer many concessions, either. In his first days in office, President Trump has not shied away from implementing his campaign pledges, no matter how radical. How will his pledge to buy American and hire American sit with his aim to negotiate a deal “very quickly” with the UK? Is the President’s desire to prove his reputation for winning in deals bad news for a UK wanting some form of equal partnership?

Most importantly, this is a necessary inquiry as we must move beyond the showmanship and controversy that will no doubt be a feature of this process, and drill down to the detail of what is proposed. What should be the UK’s red lines? What sectors could win and lose? Will access to public services be on the table? 

Crucially, we want to explore how far Ministers should be prepared to go to get the marquee deal they are after.”

Related

A UK trade deal with Trump? Be careful what you wish for

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Brexit, dirty campaigning, the TTIP and a case for Remain

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“We cannot be content with the state of the EU as it stands. But that does not mean walking away, but staying to fight together for a better Europe.”  Jeremy Corbyn, Statement to The Guardian, 28 July 2015.

Despite his reservations, and a desire to see progressive reform within the European Union, Mr Corbyn strongly supports the Remain campaign. He has been very clear about his views, and he has presented powerful arguments to support his position. He says:

“I have seen first-hand jobs, investment, workers’ rights and environmental protection that being part of the EU helps secure for working people. That’s why, despite its faults, I believe it’s best we vote to stay and work with our friends to make the changes Europe needs.”

It was therefore something of a surprise to see the Leave campaign use a quote with such malicious intent from Mr Corbyn, that was so outdated and out of context, to deliberately mislead people into thinking that the Labour leader supports Brexit.

This post was sponsored on Facebook, and came up more than once in my feed: Stand with Jeremy Corbyn.  

The site is promoted by Matthew Elliot, the founder and former Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance and Big Brother Watch. He also acted as Campaign Director for the successful NOtoAV campaign in the 2011 Alternative Vote referendum. He is the Founder and was the Chief Executive of Business for Britain, and is now the Chief Executive of the Vote Leave Campaign Committee, having founded and been the chief executive of the main Vote Leave.

Elliott also founded the Politics and Economics Research Trust (PERT) in 2004. Labour MP and former Shadow Minister for Europe, Emma Reynolds, raised significant questions about the affairs of the TPA and PERT, she wrote to the Charity Commission and said that “PERT may be in breach of charities legally binding commitments to preserve their independence, specifically regarding political activity and the delivery of charitable objectives.”

Of £532,000 PERT paid out in grants in 2014, £300,000 went to the TPA and £205,000 to Business for Britain, both of which are Eurosceptic. £10,000 went to Global Britain, which has campaigned for Brexit. Charitable trusts are not allowed to be used for political purposes under British charity law.

There were some pretty grubby tricks employed during November 2015, when the group established a fake company in order to gain entry to a speech being given by the Prime Minister at the Confederation of British Industry where they heckled him and held banners stating “CBI = voice of Brussels.” Dominic Cummings, campaign director of Leave, subsequently stated:

“You think it is nasty? You ain’t seen nothing yet. These guys have failed the country, they are going to be under the magnifying glass. Tough shit … It is going to be tough”.

The campaign group also stated their intention to target and disrupt meetings of pro-EU organisations and companies. In a letter to the Electoral Commission, Eric Pickles, the former Conservative cabinet minister, said he believed Vote Leave had disqualified itself from lead status in the referendum (which entitles the campaign to public funding) after it pledged to run a “nasty” campaign against opponents.

The European referendum, some have argued, is more important than any general election, because it will potentially change Britain’s relationship with Europe and the rest of the world. There’s a lot of grand and quaint imperialist talk from the Leave camp about power, sovereignty and Britain’s “place in the world.” But it’s a clever sales pitch, nonetheless, as it harnesses the public restiveness, which reflects a broader disquiet with social democracy in the UK. 

I have to agree with Michael Sandel’s comment, in his excellent interview in today’s New Stateman with Jason Crowley: “A big part of the debate has been about economics – jobs and trade and prosperity – but my hunch is that voters will decide less on economics than on culture and ­questions of identity and belonging.”

The Right have always been strongly inclined towards socioeconomic outgrouping, creating categories of others, using stigma and scapegoating techniques to formulate justification narratives for policy that is purposefully designed to impose gross social inequalities. This alienates already marginalised groups, fragments social identities, and of course, breaks social solidarity. It’s therefore no surprise that immigration and othering have been the focus of a substantial part of the Brexit campaign.

He goes on to say: “Social democracy is in desperate need of reinvigoration, because it has over the past several decades lost its moral and civic energy and purpose. It’s become a largely managerial and technocratic orientation to politics. It’s lost its ability to inspire working people, and its vision, its moral and civic vision, has faltered. So for two generations after the Second World War, social democracy did have an animating vision, which was to create and to deepen and to articulate welfare states, and to moderate and provide a counterbalance to the power of unfettered market capitalism.

“This was the raison d’être of social democracy, and it was connected to a larger purpose, which was to empower those who were not at the top of the class system, to empower working people and ordinary men and women, and also to nurture a sense of solidarity and an understanding of citizenship that enabled the entire society to say we are all in this together. But over the past, well, three or four decades, this sense of purpose has been lost, and I think it begins with the Ronald Reagan/Margaret Thatcher era.”   

Yes, the transatlantic neoliberal turn. The commentary throughout the article is coherent and compelling, and well worth the read.

Leaving the EU would mean the UK giving up its place and influence in Europe, turning back the clock and retreating from the established global power networks of the 21st century. It would also legitimize the Conservatives’ crusade against what remains of a political settlement based on an inclusive, multicultural democracy. Without a level of international scrutiny and legal safeguards, I believe that this Conservative governments’ already evident authoritarian inclinations would be held under rather less constraint. 

The Labour Party, except for a small handful of eurosceptics, is now firmly pro-Europe  – we are, after all, internationalists – despite the fact that leader Jeremy Corbyn has in the past questioned whether the EU structure delivers more for business than it does workers. The Scottish National Party, most of the Liberal Democrats, Green Party and Welsh nationalists Plaid Cmyru are firmly placed with the ‘In’ camp. 

Jeremy Corbyn has said that David Cameron must not have a carte blanche to negotiate away workers’ rights as part of his desired EU reform package, ahead of the in-out referendum. However, Corbyn knows for sure that workers’ rights will not be stronger if the UK ends up outside the EU. 

It was the New Labour Government who ended the Tories’ opt-out on EU social policy (the “social chapter” as it was then called) back in 1998. The Trades Union Congress (TUC) have also staunchly defended workers’ rights in the EU over the last two decades. Now Cameron is aiming to undermine such positive EU employment laws in the UK, as the Tories successfully did back in the 1990s with an across-the-board opt-out. This said, Cameron’s “re-negotiation” has been pretty quickly sidelined. 

A Labour government could easily opt back into any areas that the Tories did succeed in opting-out of, as long as the UK is still an EU member state. The real attack on workers’ rights would inevitably happen if the UK left the EU. Then it would be straightforward for the Tory government to repeal other directives protecting workers’ rights. And they would – obligations to implement EU laws would cease, and so leaving the EU would reduce rather than help workers’ rights. And joining the EU again in the future would be very difficult – it would require a new referendum and fresh negotiations with Brussels, at the very least.

One final point. Some on the Left have said that the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a reason for them to vote to leave the EU.  I can understand this, because the TTIP will lead to a large-scale transfer of democratic power to multinationals. It is a blueprint for deregulation and privatisation. 

The Left Leave group argue that the deal promotes the privatisation of the NHS, and that leaving the EU would mean avoiding TTIP and hence save Britain’s free healthcare system. However, TTIP would still have a strong influence on the UK economy. Once outside the EU, the UK would be unable to stop the TTIP, or shape it. TTIP would create a transatlantic marketspace that would influence British firms and the UK economy by aligning regulation in the US and EU.  

Britain would need to stop trading with both the EU and the US to escape the TTIP’s regulations. The EU, like the US, would most likely remain an important trading partner for the UK in the event of a success for the Brexit campaign. Brexit is premised on extreme free trade agreements coupled with looser regulation to make us more “competitive.” 

The TTIP deal was supposed to be signed by now – but together, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group and Europe’s people have seriously stalled things. Would it really be possible to stop such a move if we couldn’t link up with campaigners across Europe? If being in the EU has brought us TTIP, it has also brought us the means to stop it. Labour MEPs fought hard to secure support within the EU to get the toxic Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clause removed from the TTIP at the negotiating table last year. 

This was an excellent achievement by our own Labour MEPs within the broader S&D group. The ISDS contradicts principles of democratic accountability and would potentially allow one government to bind another for decades to come. Unlike the great majority of other treaties, investment treaties have very long minimum lifespans ranging up to 30 years. 

Much debate has arisen concerning the impact of controversial ISDS on the capacity of governments to implement reforms and legislative and policy programs related to public health, environmental protection, labour and human rights. 

In the UK, we already have a highly corporatised Government. We have witnessed scandalous price-rigging, and massive job losses, decreased standards in service delivery and a disempowerment of our Unions. This is because the Tories will always swing policy towards profiting private companies and not towards meeting public needs, as we know. 

In Britain, privatisation was primarily driven by Tory neoliberal ideological motives, to “roll back the frontiers of the State.” 

This Conservative government has done everything possible to push the most extreme version of TTIP, just as they’ve fought against pretty much every financial regulation, from bankers bonuses to a financial transaction tax. Cameron has his own programme of stripping away laws that direct big business towards reasonable behaviours and standards, no matter how important those laws are for safeguarding people and our environment.

 —

Related

Three excellent articles: –

EU debate: what are the real choices? – Red Pepper

The energy of the Brexiteers and Trump is born of the failure of elites Michael Sandel / Jason Cowley

#BREXIT ANTI-IMMIGRATION ARGUMENT CONTINUES WAR AGAINST POOR – Rupert Dreyfus/Consented

 


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Jeremy Corbyn speaks against TTIP at Durham Miners Gala

11695892_859530877415623_7150417838458484968_nJeremy Corbyn speaking at the Durham Miners Gala, The Sands.

Durham gala

 Durham Miners Gala, Framwellgate Bridge

Think Left

In an inspiring and comprehensive speech, Jeremy Corbyn spelt out the aspirations [sic] that the left should have for any future Labour government.. a race to the top, not Osborne’s welfare for the rich and cuts for the poorest and the young.  An end to homelessness, hunger, the selling-off of publicly owned assets, zero hours contracts, food banks – that every child matters (not just the first two), solidarity with the trade unions and above all else, an end to the callous and unnecessary ‘Austerity’.

Jeremy specifically emphasised the threat of the US-EU trade deal TTIP… NAFTA on Steroids. He called for TTIP’s rejection not only in terms of its well publicised threat to the NHS and public services but also because of the international threat that it poses to worker and environmental protection legislation across Europe, the UK and the US.

In this speech, Jeremy Corbyn demonstrates by example, just how…

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A crib sheet of responses to the crib sheet of lies about the Labour Party: Part two

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I decided to consolidate the frequently encountered lies about Labour Party policies and construct a crib sheet of responses founded on facts and evidence for anyone to use in challenging propaganda, nonsense and misinformation. Or to simply enlighten.

Here are some of the most frequently used lies that are paraded as “criticisms” of Labour, by a variety of fringe parties, the greens and the Scottish Nationalists, all claiming to be “left.” Ultimately, the only beneficiaries will be the Conservatives, left largely unchallenged by the narxist parties. The only party actually opposing the Tories is Labour.

In part one, I addressed the “allthesame” lie, the Iraq war and Labour’s position on austerity.

In part two, I aim to address Labour’s position on the TTIP, welfare, fracking and the renewal of Trident:

  • Labour support the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership trade deal (TTIP).”

Whilst the Labour Party recognise that greater transatlantic trade and investment could be beneficial for Britain, they have always opposed the inclusion of the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) in the agreement.

The ISDS contradicts principles of democratic accountability and would potentially allow one government to bind another for decades to come. Unlike the great majority of other treaties, investment treaties have very long minimum lifespans ranging up to 30 years.

Much debate has arisen concerning the impact of the controversial ISDS on the capacity of governments to implement reforms and legislative and policy programs related to public health, environmental protection, labour and human rights. (See – Labour MPs speak out against the TTIP and investigation opens into the impacts on environmental protections.)

In Britain, privatisation was primarily driven by Tory ideological motives, to “roll back the frontiers of the State.” The ISDS would stifle moves by a future democratically elected government to put the deregulation and privatisation process into reverse and bring our public services – including our NHS, railways, water, energy and other utilities – back into public ownership.

Where the ISDS has been forced into other trade agreements, it has allowed big global corporations, already with too much power, to sue Governments in front of secretive arbitration panels composed of corporate lawyers, which bypass our domestic courts and override the decisions of parliaments and interests of citizens.

The Labour Party understand that no matter how economically beneficial the TTIP may be, potentially, such very serious threats posed by the ISDS clause to public services, civil rights, citizen well-being and democracy are untenable.

This is why in January, Labour MEPs called on the European Commission to remove the ISDS clause from the EU-US trade deal. It will now be opposed by the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group, which Labour MEPs are a part of. On 4 March, the S&D group in the European Parliament decided to oppose the ISDS in an almost unanimous vote.

The proposal was supported by 78 votes to five against. The adopted position was drafted by Labour MEP David Martin, who is the group co-ordinator on trade issues. (See – Labour MEPs secure support to reject the ISDS clause in the TTIP.)

The most controversial element of the TTIP has been taken off the negotiating table, thanks to Labour.

  • “Labour will be tougher on welfare than the Tories.”

Rachel Reeves has NEVER said that she will be “tougher on welfare.” She issued a statement shortly after being misquoted. Natalie Bennett perpetuated that misquote, too, originally from the Observer. (See Bennett’s article: Rachel Reeves is clear: Labour would set the struggling against the poorest.)

What Rachel Reeves actually said was she would be “tougher on the CAUSES of high welfare spending”  – such as low wages, unemployment, high private sector rents, lack of adequate housing, private company contracts and outsourcing – especially that instigated by Iain Duncan Smith: his vanity projects have cost us millions because contracted private companies have failed to deliver services, the policies are ill-conceived, creating higher costs, ultimately, rather than making any savings as the Tories claimed – the bedroom tax being an example, which Labour have pledged to scrap.

In simple terms, Labour strongly contest the causes of high spending on social security, seeing structural problems such as high unemployment, shortages of housing and poor policies as the underlying reasons, for example, whereas Tories simply blame individuals.

Labour has not committed to match the £12bn of further cuts to the welfare bill promised by George Osborne. Reeves said Labour aimed to cut welfare spending by increasing the minimum wage to £8 an hour, and increasing youth employment. She said: “Labour believes in strong safety net, work for those who can and support for those who can’t.”

“The big savings to be had are by tackling the root causes of the benefits bill,” she said. “If every young person who can work is working and if people are paid a wage that they can afford to live on, so they don’t have to draw down on housing benefit and tax credit, then that’s going to save a lot more money than all the talk in the world about ‘shirkers and scroungers’.”

The fact that Rachel Reeves was misquoted was clarified to Caroline Lucas in Parliament, so the Green Party have no excuse for shamefully lying about the Labour Party’s policy intentions.

In the middle of crucial debate about the Work Capability Assessment and the plight of disabled people because of Coalition policies, initiated by the WOW campaign, Lucas lost all of my respect when she chose political point scoring instead of constructive debate and said this:

Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion, Green); I was disappointed that Rachel Reeves, on taking up her post as shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, used the opportunity of her first interview to say that she would be tougher than the Tories on people on benefits.

Kate Green (Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions); Stretford and Urmston, Labour); My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds West did not say that. She said that she would be tougher on welfare spending, not on people on benefits.

Sheila Gilmore (Edinburgh East, Labour); Does the hon. Lady agree that there are some forms of welfare spending that we should bring down? In my view, one of those is the excessive amount that is paid to private landlords through housing benefit. I am certainly in favour of reducing that form of welfare spending. Is she not?

Caroline Lucas (Brighton, Pavilion, Green); I am very much in favour of that if the hon. Lady wants to put it under the heading of welfare spending... Source: Hansard – which is the parliamentary record. (See: 27 Feb 2014 : Column 457  at 1.29 pm, on the 2nd page.)

Nonetheless many have continued to misquote Reeves, using negative campaigning and smear tactics akin to the Tories to promote their own party. It’s time that some people distinguished between welfare spending and benefits, to conflate the two purely for political gain is deplorable, dishonest and not in the best interests of the electorate. (Also, see – We can reduce the Welfare Budget by billions: simply get rid of Iain Duncan Smith.)

Another lie about Labour’s intentions is that they intend to “scrap benefits for young people.” Of course this not true.

Ed Miliband has made it clear that he is REPLACING jobseekers allowance with another allowance for young people. He thinks that conditional benefits are inappropriate for young people, as to be entitled to jobseekers allowance requires having to be available for work and actively looking for work, so it excludes the very possibility of further education and learning experiences. But young people need the freedom and support to gain from learning.

That’s why Ed Miliband will replace out of work benefits for those aged 18-21 with a youth allowance of the same value. This isn’t the controversial issue that was presented by the mainstream media and other parties at all: it’s actually a very well thought out, cost efficient and positive policy.

So young people won’t have to be available for work, but they do have to use their freedom to be learning or training. This detail matters a lot and was excluded from most accounts of the policy. The new “youth allowance” is set at £57 – the same as Job Seekers Allowance for under 25s – provided they undertake vocational training of AS level or equivalent. Miliband had a good idea, it won’t cost any more than we currently pay young people, but it means we are investing in young people’s potential and their futures. (See – Template for costing policies of opposition parties: Training support for young people.)

  • “Labour support fracking.”

Labour have always had concerns about the safety of fracking and have demanded that robust regulations are put in place before any exploratory drilling takes place.

In Government, the Labour Party led the way on an international level as the first nation to put climate change at the heart of the G8 and to call a United Nations Security Council meeting on climate change.

On 16 October 2008, Ed Miliband, then the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, announced the world’s first Climate Change Act. It is worth remembering this historical legislative context: it has considerable bearing on why Labour opposes the current government’s almost fanatical faith in shale gas.

Labour’s position on fracking is that the development of shale gas cannot and must not come at the expense of meeting our legally binding obligation to avoid dangerous climate change, nor can fracking be given any nod of approval at all without scrupulous environmental safeguards in place. Any future Labour policy on fracking, either way, would be formulated with due care, after drawing on research and the meticulous gathering of evidence of all potential environmental risks.

Over the last three years, Labour has worked with organisations including the RSPB, Friends of the Earth and the Local Government Association, drawing on work by Royal Academy of Engineering and other bodies to produce a list of vital conditions to reform the regulatory regime for shale gas. The conditions include independent inspection of well integrity, mandatory monitoring for fugitive emissions and a presumption against development in protected areas such as National Parks.

They represent a comprehensive approach, based on scientific evidence, to bring a rigour and coherence to the UK’s regulatory framework.

Labour recently successfully forced through these conditions as a series of legislative amendments to constrain government plans to “fast-track” fracking. George Osborne, the chancellor, was demanding “rapid progress” from cabinet ministers, including delivering the “asks” of fracking company Cuadrilla.

A moratorium, as proposed by the Green Party, would never have been successful at this stage, and Labour knew that. Had the moratorium actually gathered a successful yes vote, the Tories would most certainly not have abided by that, leaving them free without constraint to go ahead with their plans to fast-track the industry.

Labour succeeded in binding them to agree on considerable restrictions, which will tie the Tories’ hands until well after the election, as well as excluding almost half of the Country’s potential shale gas sites from being potential drilling sites.

Such a wide-ranging ban is a significant blow to the UK’s fracking industry, which David Cameron and George Osborne have enthusiastically backed. The future of fracking now looks to be in the balance. Many analysts say the outlook for fracking is bleak.

The Guardian goes on to say: “An independent analysis by Greenpeace also found that 45 per cent of the 931 blocks being licensed for fracking in England were at least 50 per cent covered by protected areas, which it said was likely to make them unattractive to fracking companies.

“Just three per cent of the blocks have no protected areas at all, Greenpeace found.”

Louise Hutchins at Greenpeace UK added: “The shale industry’s seemingly irresistible advance is now looking more and more resistible every day, unless ministers can explain why fracking is too risky for the South Downs but perfectly safe in the Lancashire countryside, the next obvious step is to ban this controversial technique from the whole of the UK.” (See: Legislative amendments from the Labour Party effectively constrain Tory plans to fast-track the fracking industry.)

  • “Labour support the renewal of Trident.”

Labour has historically close ties with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND). In March 2007 the CND organised a rally in Parliament Square to coincide with the Commons motion to renew the Trident weapons system. The rally was attended by over 1,000 people. It was addressed by Labour MPs Jon Trickett, Emily Thornberry, John McDonnell, Michael Meacher, Diane Abbott and Jeremy Corbyn.

In the House of Commons, 161 MPs (88 of them Labour) voted against the renewal of Trident and the Government motion was carried only with the heavy support of Conservatives.

High profile members of Labour CND include Jeremy Corbyn MP, former MP Alice Mahon and Walter Wolfgang. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair and former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw were once members as young MPs.

Labour had announced their intentions of unilateral disarmament at their 1982 Conference and Kinnock subsequently retreated from that policy of outright unilateral nuclear disarmament because it was that which had lost Labour the previous two General Elections. Public support for the CND fell after the end of the Cold war. It had not succeeded in converting the British public to unilateralism and even after the collapse of the Soviet Union, British nuclear weapons still have majority support.

Unilateral disarmament has always been opposed by a majority of the British public, with the level of support for unilateralism remaining steady at around one in four of the population

A bitter dispute broke out after Kinnock sought to clarify policy by pledging to retain Trident indefinitely until the successful negotiation of an international agreement to eliminate all nuclear weapons. The public opinion on Trident was that we should keep it until there is a multilateral agreement reached.

However, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidates in the 2015 election are speaking out about their opposition to Trident. There has been quite a marked swing towards unilateralism within the Party once more.

The views of Labour candidates are being published on the CND website as part of an ongoing survey, with 75% expressing opposition to Trident replacement to date. (See: Labour PPCs say Scrap Trident.

Even if Labour were to make only small gains, the unilateralist cause will be much stronger than in this parliament. (See: New Statesman – Exclusive: 75% of Labour PPCs oppose Trident renewal.)

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Thanks to Robert Livingstone for the excellent memes.

Labour MEPs secure support to reject the ISDS clause in the TTIP

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In January, Labour MEPs called on the European Commission to provide alternatives to the inclusion of the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), following its response to a Europe-wide public consultation.

Glenis Willmott, Labour MEP for the East Midlands, reports that Labour have secured the support of their colleagues in calling for the ISDS clause to be removed from the EU-US trade deal.

The controversial ISDS clause of the TTIP would allow private companies to sue governments if they felt that a decision or law impacted on their ability to make profit. It will now be opposed by the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group, which Labour MEPs are a part of.

On the 4 March, the S&D group in the European Parliament decided to oppose ISDS in an almost unanimous vote. The proposal was supported by 78 votes to five against. The adopted position was drafted by Labour MEP David Martin, who is the group co-ordinator on trade issues.

The S&D working group was headed by UK Labour Party MEPs including David Martin (chair), Jude Kirton-Darling (spokesperson on TTIP and CETA – The Comprehensive Trade and Economic Agreement: the negotiated EU-Canada treaty) and Richard Corbett (Labour’s Deputy Leader in the European Parliament).

David Martin said: “We have always been opposed to ISDS as a group, although we didn’t have a chance to adopt a formal decision on this matter since the last European elections in 2014. In doing so today, we are responding to the thousands of constituents and the many civil society organisations that have asked us to clarify our position.”

Jude Kirton-Darling added: “This decision … will prove to be a real game-changer, not only in the negotiations between the EU and the US but also with respect to the ratification of the Canada agreement.

The European Commission and Europe’s Conservatives will need our support in the end if they want to see TTIP through. Today, we are sending them a loud and clear message that we can only contemplate support if our conditions are met. One such condition is we do not accept the need to have private tribunals in TTIP.”

 Richard Corbett said: “Today the Labour Party has demonstrated that engaging with our neighbours across the EU yields tangible results in the interest of the general public. Labour were instrumental in securing this outcome, and this is a tribute to the hard work, commitment and resolve of Labour MEPs.”

Glenis Willmott summarised : “This decision by the S&D group will be a real game changer not only in the negotiations between the EU and the US but also for the approval of a trade agreement with Canada. The European Commission and centre-right group in the Parliament will need our support if they want to see TTIP through.

“Today, we are sending them a loud and clear message we can only support it if private tribunals are left out of TTIP. Labour has proven that engaging with our neighbours gets real results in the public interest. We were instrumental in getting this agreement and we will continue to stand up for the NHS and our public services.”

This is an excellent achievement. The ISDS contradicts principles of democratic accountability and would potentially allow one government to bind another for decades to come. Unlike the great majority of other treaties, investment treaties have very long minimum lifespans ranging up to 30 years.

Much debate has arisen concerning the impact of controversial ISDS on the capacity of governments to implement reforms and legislative and policy programs related to public health, environmental protection, labour and human rights.

It’s been of particular worry that the current Tory-led mass privatisation process has been a total failure. In the UK, we already have a highly corporatised Government. We have witnessed scandalous price-rigging, and massive job losses, decreased standards in service delivery and a disempowerment of our Unions. This is because the Tories will always swing policy towards benefiting private companies and not public needs, as we know.

In Britain, privatisation was primarily driven by Tory ideological motives, to “roll back the frontiers of the State.”

Where the ISDS has been forced into other trade agreements, it has allowed big global corporations, already with too much power, to sue Governments in front of secretive arbitration panels composed of corporate lawyers, which bypass our domestic courts and override the decisions of parliaments and interests of citizens.

Not that this would be a particular issue of concern in the case of the UK, with the current Government always favouring policies that promote the interests of such powerful businesses, anyway.

But this mechanism would also remove any chance whatsoever of public interests being a consideration in the decision-making process.  In short, it would bypass what remains of our democratic process completely. And it would bind subsequent governments.

Worryingly, moves by a future democratically elected government to put the deregulation process into reverse and bring our public services – including our NHS, railways, water, energy and other utilities – back into public ownership would be confronted by an international court system (ISDS) where lawyers will judge what is or is not a barrier to “free trade.” And to reiterate, it would be carried out behind closed doors. Corporates can go on to sue nation states that stand in the way of “free trade” and threats to future as well as actual losses to profits.

The Labour Party understand that no matter how economically beneficial the Conservatives have claimed the TTIP to be, potentially, such serious threats posed by the ISDS clause to civil rights, citizen well-being and democracy are untenable.

252299_486936058042594_609527550_nThanks to Robert Livingstone.

Labour MPs speak out against the TTIP and investigation opens into the impacts on environmental protections

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The impact of the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership trade deal on environmental protections in Europe is to be investigated by parliament. Opposition MPs will examine if the agreement could weaken regulations on chemical and pesticide use, oil and gas extraction and genetically modified food.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a planned free trade agreement between the European Union and the US. Those who support it claim that it will “boost” economies. However there have been many concerns raised regarding this agreement. Critics say that not only have the economic benefits of TTIP have been overstated, it will additionally put downward pressure on regulation in sectors such as health and the environment and poses a significant threat to national democratic decision-making.

Worryingly, moves by a future democratically elected government to put the deregulation process into reverse and bring our public services – including our NHS, railways, water, energy and other utilities – back into public ownership would be confronted by an international court system (ISDS) where lawyers will judge what is or is not a barrier to “free trade”. And it will be carried out behind closed doors. Corporates can go on to sue nation states that stand in the way of “free trade” and threats to future as well as actual losses to profits.

In August 2014, Labour MP Katy Clark urged David Cameron to stop the EU-US trade pact from opening more public services to the private sector.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which has remained under negotiation behind closed doors, “would let companies sue if national governments pass laws that hurt profits,” Ms Clark warned.

This is bad news for our existing public services such as the NHS, or other services that we may wish to take back into public ownership such as the railways.

“Private companies already run certain services but under the new plans the government would never be allowed to run these again, as doing so would hurt the profits of the companies involved.”

Since discussions on the content of the Treaty have remained secret, its exact content is unknown, (including to the Labour Party) but private firms on both sides of the Atlantic are keen to use competition rules to force open what remains of the public sector.

During a parliamentary debate in February, secured by back bench Labour MP John Healy, Labour MPs, including Katy Clark, raised many concerns about the TTIP.  Jeremy Corbyn said: “Why is there such secrecy surrounding the negotiations? Why are not all the documents on the table? Why are the demands made on European public services by the American negotiators not made public? Why are not the demands made in the other direction also made public? I suspect that, if the agreement ever comes to fruition, every Parliament in Europe and the US system will be presented with a fait accompli: they will be told that they have to accept it.”

Ian Lavery  commented: “A number of people have said that there must be a good business case for the transatlantic trade and investment partnership. I think that we need much more than a good business case. I am concerned that there are huge inherent dangers in the TTIP for many working people and for public services in the UK. My major concern is that the trade agreement has the potential to dilute workers’ rights.”

Katy Clark, the North Ayrshire and Arran MP, wrote to the Prime Minister urging him to protect public services and pointed out that France won the right to continue supporting its film industry and that the US had blocked any deal on its finance sector.

She said: “If the leaders of these countries can protect what’s important to them, then David Cameron can do the same for Britain.”

Neil Clark from the Campaign for Public Ownership, said the Labour MP’s warning was timely as people had “still not woken up to the consequences of TTIP.”

“It is fundamentally undemocratic, since though large majorities of the public are in favour of renationalising key services such as the railways or energy, subsequent governments would be unable to do so without breaking the terms of the pact.

“But it would impose privatisation forever and must be stopped in its tracks.”

Angela Eagle said: “I know that following widespread public concern, the European Commission halted negotiations on the investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) section of TTIP pending the outcome of a public consultation. I appreciate that there are serious concerns about the potential impact of the ISDS provisions and I hope that the European Commission will consider the responses to this consultation carefully.”

In November last year, Labour MP Clive Efford, with the backing of the party’s leadership, called for the exemption of the NHS from the trade deal. It was a victory for the Private Member’s Bill to repeal the Tory privatisation of the NHS and Exempt the NHS from the TTIP Agreement. Mr Efford said: “The Bill will not save the NHS overnight – only the election of a Labour government can do that. But it does give all MPs the opportunity to accept that the 2012 Act has been a disaster and to begin to create an NHS which puts patient care at the centre of all it does, not private profit.”

Andy Burnham, the shadow Health Secretary, claimed that signing TTIP could jeopardise the founding principles of the health service. The many critics of this trade agreement fear that the deal would leave the NHS vulnerable to takeover by American healthcare giants and undermine the principle of a service free at the point of delivery.

Joan Walley MP, chair of the Commons Select Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), which launched its inquiry on 8th January, said: “We will be investigating whether it really is possible to sign such a deal and at the same time safeguard European environmental standards, as negotiators have claimed.

Greater transatlantic trade and investment could be beneficial for Britain, but we must monitor these talks carefully to ensure they are not trading-in the rules that keep our food and environment safe.”

A recent report from the Center for International Environmental Law (Ciel) argues that the European chemical industry wants the US system of chemical risk assessment to be adopted, which the group says would allow the use of over 80 pesticides currently banned in the EU. Other campaigners say US biotech companies want to use TTIP to open EU borders to imports of genetically modified food.

Samuel Lowe, from Friends of the Earth, said: “With the potential for essential environmental and food standards to be discarded as ‘trade irritants’, the TTIP presents a unique challenge to the health of our environment. The EAC should scrutinise the proposals and ensure that these serious concerns are no longer brushed under the carpet.”

Absolutely. Labour has said very clearly that they won’t back this Treaty unless the NHS and other key public services are excluded. The crucial inquiry, which Labour MPs have called for is welcome. It`will focus on the potential environmental impacts in the UK of TTIP, including through changes to regulations and product standards and the operation of an “inter-state dispute settlement” regime; and on the potential effects on developing countries. Gathering evidence is an essential when it comes to the process of agreeing, formulating or rejecting policies

 

Further reading:

The coming Corporatocracy and the death of democracy

Just what will TTIP mean for our jobs, environment, consumer rights – and publicly provided health service?

Lord Howe said we couldn’t exempt the NHS because it would place our pharmaceutical companies at a disadvantage.

If we don’t do something about the TTIP it may be all of us who will be at a disadvantage.

And one thing which is clear is that the TTIP will open up the NHS to American private health companies.”

There are some things we just can’t afford to risk – and the NHS is one of them.
Andy Burnham has already been to Brussels to discuss NHS exemptions.
Labour is committed to them.

“The report – on the workings of NAFTA – the North American Free Trade Agreement – which has been around for 20 years suggests we may need to go further – and we certainly need far more open discussion of what’s at stake.

This is something the LibDem/Tory Coalition seem very reluctant to have.
Could the pattern of funding of the Tory party have anything to do with that?

We merely ask.” – TTIP/ EU-US Trade Agreement – you can’t trust the LibDem/Tory Coalition with the NHS Alex Sobel MP

 

Pictures courtesy of  Robert Livingstone