Strasbourg, France – A vote in the European Parliament on whether to continue with negotiations for an EU/US Trade deal has split Britain’s right wing parties, with the Conservatives backing the deal while UKIP is opposed. UKIP also failed to get amendments protecting the NHS from the deal through the parliament.
Members of the European Parliament gave their assent to continuing negotiations for the deal, known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), voting by 436 votes to 241 to approve its recommendations. The vote was not on the final deal, which has yet to be decided through further negotiations, but sets the scene for negotiations to be wrapped up.
But while the Conservative delegation is behind the deal, Ukip are staunchly against, arguing that it will threaten the NHS and increase red tape.
Our second amendment fails by 142-507. That was the one to protect the British NHS specifically from TTIP.
— Jonathan Arnott MEP (@JonathanArnott) July 8, 2015
Following the vote, Ukip’s trade spokesman William Dartmouth MEP said:
“The people interested in protection of the NHS, in consumer rights and a legal system fair to small businesses will be angry with this decision of the European Parliament to pass TTIP.
“This is a very damaging vote by MEPs which will hurt free trade and the financial well-being of patients, consumers and workers.
“The EU should not manipulate the UK’s trade nor, that of any other Member State in order to promote the political pretentions of a wannabe European super state.
“The only way that citizens can defeat TTIP now is to vote to leave the European Union. UKIP is the only major party opposed to TTIP and we will continue the good fight, but while members of the EU, it is virtually impossible to prevent such EU legislation being forced upon us against our will.”
However, the Conservative Party is rather more sanguine about the agreement, seeing it primarily as a free trade deal. Their trade spokesman Emma McClarkin said:
“I welcome the fact that following weeks of parliamentary ping-pong and attempts by socialist and protectionist MEPs to derail the process we finally have a clear backing for TTIP.
“This deal can bring us the growth that Europe so desperately needs by cutting red tape and reducing tariffs, allowing businesses of all sizes to flourish in a truly open marketplace. TTIP will also be good news for the consumers of Europe, who will be able to choose from a wider range of products at a cheaper price.
“Other parts of the world are making progress while Europe lags behind. As one of the world’s biggest economies, Europe should be leading the global trade agenda, not be led by it. I hope that with Parliament’s support for TTIP now officially on record a swift and successful conclusion of the negotiations can now be reached”
So much for hollow claims about standing up for Britain: UKIP MEPs vote against #TTIP and the benefits it'll bring for consumers & SMEs
— Conservative MEPs (@ConMEPs) July 8, 2015
The Conservative’s position is broadly in line with that of the free trade think tank The Institute for Economic Affairs. Diego Zuluaga, an International Research Fellow at the IEA who has been following the deal told Breitbart London: “Any agreement that removes barriers to trade between the EU and the United States should be welcomed. While we still do not know all the details of TTIP, it looks set to cut the tariffs that remain on transatlantic goods exports, and to remove regulatory barriers that unnecessarily hamper commerce.
“It is important that such regulatory cooperation takes place through mutual recognition rather than harmonisation, as the latter is likely to encourage a regulatory arms race which would result in even more restrictive standards. Instead, broadly similar procedures should be treated as equal, so businesses can export more easily and countries can learn from best practice in regulation.”
But each group does have its dissenters. The Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan, a staunch free marketeer abstained on the vote. He has called the EU a “corporatist racket”, and is reserving judgement on TTIP until the final text comes in, saying: “There is a difference between being pro-business and being pro-market.
“TTIP will certainly be pro-business, at least if by business we mean the mega-corporations. Whether or not it ends up being pro-market remains to be seen. And whether I vote for it depends on what the final text contains.”
@Tim_Aker You know perfectly well that it wasn't a vote "on TTIP", which has yet to be agreed.
— Daniel Hannan (@DanHannanMEP) July 8, 2015
Meanwhile, the UKIP MEP Roger Helmer has reserved his dissent for an ancillary aspect of TTIP, the proposed Investor/State Dispute Settlement system (ISDS). His party put forward an amendment to prevent the creation of the ISDS, which it has described as “a private corporate-led arbitration court which would allow multinationals to sue states if their profits were challenged.”
But Mr Helmer points out that ISDS provisions are “commonplace” in international treaties, doing nothing more than allowing companies redress if governments break the rules of the treaty.
“Classical liberal economics stresses the vital importance of the rule of law, of property rights and enforceable contracts, as the basis of a free society and a workable economy. If you enter into an agreement, or a contract, or a treaty, you should observe it. And it will normally include some kind of mechanism to provide redress in the event of non-compliance. Indeed a contract or treaty without such provisions is of little value,” he wrote on his blog.
The IEA takes a similar line, with Zuluaga telling us: “It is unfortunate that so much attention in TTIP discussions has been devoted to myths regarding investor protection or ISDS, which is simply a clause to protect foreign investors from expropriation, bans and other arbitrary government actions.
“As such, ISDS could never have an impact on the NHS, or indeed any other government policy. It is strictly a mechanism to decide whether investors affected by significant policy changes should receive compensation. But policy decisions remain squarely in hands of governments.”