With the latest round of negotiations for the new EU-US trade treaty starting on Monday, left-wing activists are finally waking up to the threat the EU poses to the rights of the British working class.
This week, War on Want launched a protest campaign against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. While they fear this will lead to privatisation of the NHS, there are far greater dangers lurking behind the proposed treaty.
Whilst we should welcome Brussels’ move away from failed protectionism, we should not welcome this treaty. The proposed text includes a clause allowing foreign businesses to seek compensation from governments who enact policies which will harm their profits. If this clause is included, the fear of law suits will loom over Westminster decision-making like a black cloud.
There are plenty of examples of the adverse effects of such a clause. Slovakia was forced to pay $22 million after it re-nationalised its health service. Canada was sued by oil giants for banning fracking in Quebec. Egypt even faced a law suit for trying to raise its minimum wage in line with inflation!
Fears over such law suits are bound to prevent the British government from legislating on matters such as health, the environment and labour rights. Hong Kong firm Philip Morris Asia suing the Australian government over plain cigarette packaging was enough to panic Brussels into making a U-turn on the issue.
Whilst there is huge opposition from Labour’s traditional supporters such as Unite and War on Want, the Labour Party itself has been largely silent about the treaty. The responsibility for protecting our workers, our healthcare and our “green and pleasant land” has fallen squarely on the shoulders of Eurosceptics.
Free trade treaties do not need to have such a clause. After the Philip Morris Asia case was filed, Australia’s trade treaties, such as the 2014 Japan-Australia agreement, have simply excluded this clause. So why is Brussels insisting on including one?
Cameron must demand this clause be cut from the final version of the US-EU Trade Treaty. Unfortunately, recent events have highlighted his inability to convince his European partners of the need for reform. Moreover, with Great Britain losing its veto over trade treaties because of the Lisbon Treaty, the PM is powerless to stop a treaty that includes such a clause from being ratified.
Fortunately, the EU has a track record of taking years to negotiate its free trade treaties. With any luck, we will have had our In/Out referendum and will have voted for the exit door by the time this disastrous treaty comes into force. Then we can negotiate our own global free trade agreements, properly safeguarding our national sovereignty.